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Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It is home to some of the largest Sovereign Wealth funds, the most profitable company in the world (Aramco), and is known for making many cutting edge investments from all of its oil profits. However, how does Saudi Arabia fare when it comes to Bitcoin and how can its citizen access crypto in this Middle East Kingdom?
Is Bitcoin Legal in Saudi Arabia?
Though Bitcoin is often heralded as a great technological innovation, often many governments do not have the same view, particularly ones that have issues with currency valuations. Saudi Arabia has famously had its Riyal (SAR) pegged to the US Dollar since 1986. However, it heavily relies on the price of oil (denominated in USD) in order to maintain that peg. Whenever the price of oil slumps, speculation starts around whether the government will be able to maintain the peg, risking a rapid currency devaluation.
As the adoption of Bitcoin poses a threaten to value of sovereign currencies, many countries without sound monetary policies take steps to prevent its population from using Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Saudi Arabia is no exception. Last August, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) gave a strong condemnation of Bitcoin, though it stopped short of declaring it outright illegal. SAMA released a statement saying, “The committee assures that virtual currency including, for example but not limited to, Bitcoins are not approved as official currencies in the kingdom and no parties or individuals are licensed for such practices by regulators in the kingdom.”
Some outlets have interpreted this as banning Bitcoin or declaring it illegal. However, it is more along the lines of refusing to provide regulated licenses and not allowing exchanges to operate within its borders. So, while the government has by no means a favorable Bitcoin policy, it is not like you would get arrested by owning Bitcoin in the country. Furthermore, citizens still have options to obtain Bitcoin.
How to buy Bitcoin in Saudi Arabia?
Bitcoin isn’t technically illegal, but it definitely is difficult to trade. There are no Saudi crypto exchanges, but investors can still trade it via other exchanges in the Middle East and globally. For instance, there are several exchanges in the region that accept the Saudi Riyal but we recommend Rain.bh.
Rain bitcoin exchanges allow for credit card purchases or bank wires to acquire Bitcoin and directly deal in Saudi Riyals. Note that access may depend on the exact bank or credit card an investor is using, as well. For instance, certain regional Saudi banks may restrict access, while other more global banks with just a Saudi presence may not. Investors should check with their bank before engaging in crypto trading online. Saudi Arabia does not restrict internet access to crypto exchange, so it is completely possible for investors to sign up and start trading with other exchanges.
The above list represents the best “on-ramps” when converting from SAR to Bitcoin. However, of course, there are much easier ways to acquire Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies if an investor has accounts with different fiat currencies or other cryptocurrencies. For instance, large global exchanges like Binance, Huobi, Bitmex, and others will allow Saudi Arabian investors to trade crypto-to-crypto. Additionally, decentralized exchanges, like Shapeshift and Idex, allow for permissionless access for anyone on the global, but again only deal in crypto-to-crypto exchanges.
Alternatively, investors can always connect peer-to-peer with other buyers or sellers of Bitcoin in Saudi Arabia through LocalBitcoins, which connects people in the same geographic area for over-the-counter orders.
Interestingly, despite the Saudi government’s stance on cryptocurrency, the central bank has recently announced a joint-venture with the UAE to develop its own digital currency. They revealed that it will be intended for banks to use primarily in cross-border payments and stressed that it still very much in a trial phase.
Overall, Saudi Arabia’s stance on Bitcoin is a tad mixed. While they are trying to suppress and limit Bitcoin’s use, they still allow for loopholes so its citizen can access it. Simultaneously, they are working on their own digital currency solution to bring to market – one that they will have infinitely more control over than a non-sovereign currency like Bitcoin. The Middle East remains an important place for the development of the crypto landscape. More news about Saudi’s dive into the industry is sure to continue in the near future.
Bitcoin Price in SAR?
We offer the latest Bitcoin Price in the Saudi Riyal (SAR/BTC). We also offer historical bitcoin price charts in SAR.