Silver dirham of the Umayyad Caliphate, minted at Balkh in AH 111 (= 729/30 CE).

Dirham or dirhem (درهم) is a unit of currency in several Arab or Berber nations, and formerly the related unit of mass (the Ottoman dram) in the Ottoman Empire and Persian states. The name derives from the Greek currency drachma or didrachm (2 drachmae).


Currency units

The currency units include:

Unit of mass

Known to the Romans as a drachm, the dirhem was a unit of weight used across North Africa, the Middle East, and Persia, with varying values.

In the late Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkish درهم), the standard dirhem was 3.207 g;[1] 400 dirhem equal one oka.

In Egypt in 1895, it was equivalent to 47.661 troy grains (3.088 g).[2]


Historically, the word "dirham" is derived from the name of a Greek coin, the Drachma (δραχμή); the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire controlled the Levant and traded with Arabia, circulating the coin there in pre-Islamic times and afterward. It was this currency which was initially adopted as an Arab word; then near the end of the 7th century the coin became an Islamic currency bearing the name of the sovereign and a religious verse. The dirham was struck in many Mediterranean countries, including Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain) and the Byzantine Empire (miliaresion), and could be used as currency in Europe between the 10th and 12th centuries, notably in areas with Viking connections, such as Viking York[3] and Dublin.

Compare the Armenian dram for a currency whose name bears a similar origin. Also compare dinar for another currency circulated in the Muslim world but originating with the Romans.


  1. ^ based on an oka of 1.2828 kg; Diran Kélékian gives 3.21 g (Dictionnaire Turc-Français, Constantinople: Imprimerie Mihran, 1911) ; Γ. Μπαμπινιώτης gives 3.203 g (Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας, Athens, 1998)
  2. ^ OED
  3. ^ In addition to Islamic dirhams in ninth and tenth century English hoards, a counterfeit dirham was found at Coppergate, York, struck as if for Isma'il ibn Achmad (ruling at Samarkand, 903-07/8), of copper covered by a once-silvery wash of tin (illustrated in Richard Hall, Viking Age Archaeology, [series Shire Archaeology] 2010:17, fig. 7).

See also

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