The video, below, was posted on YouTube on March 16. It shows a discussion between a Qatari driver and a gas station employee in the Al-Ahsa region, in southeastern Saudi Arabia, according to local media. As he is about to pay, the driver hands a 50 Qatari riyal note to the attendant. “I don’t take Qatari money anymore,” the attendant says. When the driver asks why, he explains the station has not accepted Qatari money for four days following an order by the manager.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have strained relationships with Qatar, which they accuse of backing the Muslim Brotherhood movement, particularly in Egypt. On March 6, the three countries decided together to sanction the kingdom by recalling their ambassadors. “The problem is that now the people are paying the price,” the driver moans while taking back the money.
Driver: “Here you are.”
Service station attendant: “I don’t take Qatari money.”
Driver: “You don’t take Qatari money? Why not?”
Attendant: “It’s finished. It’s finished.”
Driver: “Since when?”
Attendant: “For four days now.”
Driver: “Four days? Because of this problem, right?”
Attendant: “Are you recording this?”
Driver: “But what’s the problem?”
Attendant: “The problem is that the director told us to take nothing.”
Driver: “No Qatari money?”
Attendant: “No Qatari money.”
Driver: “The problem is that now the people are paying the price!”
Doha, the capital of Qatar, is only 200 kilometres from Al-Ahsa city. Many Qatari citizens go to this region regularly, particularly during weekends, to do their grocery shopping because the prices there are cheaper than in Qatar. Gas stations, department stores, and hotels usually accept Qatari money with no complaints, especially since it’s stronger than the local currency.
Hamad (not his real name) is a Qatari businessman who often travels to Saudi Arabia. He is speaking anonymously for fear of being banned from entering the country in future.
I went to Dammam airport [in the country’s east] a few days ago. I wanted to pay at the car park, but the employee refused to accept Qatari money, which I had always used until then. Intrigued, I asked him why and he just said: ‘the bank will refuse to take this money’. I’m worried and hope this crisis won’t affect businessmen like me who have invested a lot of money in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Saudi authorities say trade with Qatar is stable. Although they insist that Qatari riyals are still accepted by shops, these words haven’t been enough to reassure increasingly worried business owners. Local media reported that a rumour that currency exchange agencies refused to convert Qatari riyals set off a wave of panic among salespeople at a large shopping centre in Medina, many of whom then refused to accept payments in this currency.