Saudi businessman offers a collection of 1,000 silver Saudi one-riyal coins to Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

June 4, 2010

A Saudi businessman has offered a collection of 1,000 silver Saudi one-riyal coins to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

The businessman, Bassam Omar Salama, said that the collection was part of 3 million Saudi one-riyal coins minted in the United States in 1944 at the request of King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdurrahman Al Saud.

In a letter he sent to the museum on the occasion, Salama said he had received 3,000 silver Saudi one-riyal coins and was gifting 1,000 of them to the Museum of Islamic Art in recognition of its role in preserving rare Islamic collections, Qatar News Agency reported.

Bassam said that he recovered the money from a cargo with three million silver Saudi one-riyal coins shipped to the port of Ras Tannoura, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Region, during World War II.

However, the ship, SS John Barry, never made it to the port after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Arabian Sea more than 185km off Oman in August 1944 and sank in waters so deep that no one thought she could ever be salvaged.

“The treasure remained underwater until 1994 when a team of my friends financed an operation to recover the treasure with the aid of the US government, which provided us with information about the ship and the cargo,” he said.

With the approval of Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, they established the Blue Water Company to recover the treasure, the Saudi businessman said.

Using satellite and the state-of-the-art technology in the field of diving in November 1994, the team recovered 1.4 million riyals in an operation described as the “strangest, biggest and deepest recovery operation in history”.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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