Mauritania has its own currency contrary to many of its neighbouring countries, which are all using the CFA. It is also interesting that the name of the Mauritanian currency, Ougiya is unique around the world, contrary to dollars, dinars and so on.
Ouguiya means once in Hassaniya Arabic, which is a corruption of Standard Arabic awqiyyah أُوقِية . So, originally, one Ouguiya was worth one once of gold.
History of the Ouguiya, Mauritanian money
As said before, the Ouguiya takes its origin for the price of one once of gold, which was the way sellers would barter in ancient days. The currency was introduced late in the history of Mauritania, with the first version of the Ouguiya being adopted in 1973.
A change of currency
In 2018, as Mauritania changed many of its symbols, such as its flag, it also changed its currency. While it was and still is called Ouguiya, the currency has changed it ISO code, going from MRO to MRU. It has also changed the denominations. There are now coins of 1,5, 10 and 20 ouguiya. as well as paper bills of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. The new bills are all of the plastic polymer type, like the Australian and Canadian dollars or the Papua New Guinea Kina.
The current Ouguiya has both French and Arabic on it.
Old price, new price
With the recent change in currency of Mauritania, a zero was skimmed off all prices. So what was costing 1000 MRO now costs 100 MRU. However, when in the country, you’ll notice that a lot of menus still have the old prices in them. Also, a lot of people still quote you with the old prices, which might make things sound quite expensive but at the same time can be quite confusing for the newcomer. It is also an opportunity for scammers and dishonest locals (not that there are many of them) to make a few bucks off you. When doubting about whether something is quoted in MRO or in MRU, always try giving one zero less. If you are right, there won’t be any problem. If you are wrong, the local will kindly point out the misunderstanding. If you ask the question whether the quote was in the old or new currency, a dishonest person could always jump on your hesitation to make a quick buck.