UAE’s Dirham marks 50 years of circulation on May 20
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UAE’s dirham marks 50 years of circulation

UAE’s dirham marks 50 years of circulation

The Emirati dirham was issued as the UAE’s official currency replacing a mix of international currencies which had been in circulation in the emirates

Marisha Singh
UAE's One Dirham banknote issued in 1973. Image Credit: Central Bank of the UAE

The Emirati dirham marks 50 years of issuance on May 20. It was on this day in 1973 that a newly formed UAE replaced a mix of international currencies – the Bahraini dinar, the Qatari riyal as well as the Dubai riyal, which had been in circulation in the seven emirates, with the Dirham.

The launch of the dirham as national currency was also linked to the formation of the country’s central bank. The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE), the banking supervisory and monetary authority of the country, was established under the name of ‘UAE Currency Board’ on May 19, 1973, as per Federal Law No. (2) of 1973. The banking authority was endowed with the responsibility of issuing a national currency to replace those in circulation.

The first batch of the Emirati currency comprised of five denominations – the Dhs 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1. The initial batch of coins comprised of Dhs1, 50fils, 25fils, 10fils, 5fils, and 1fil. The Dhs1,000 note came into circulation only in 1980. This was followed by the Dhs500 in 1983, and the Dhs200 in 1989, as per the CBUAE.

The paper notes issued by the Central Bank of UAE had both Arabic and English lettering, with various landmarks of the UAE printed on them.

In 1982, the CBUAE released a second issue of UAE paper currency, following the transition from the UAE Currency Board to the CBUAE, instituted by Union Law No. (10) of 1980. As a result of this transition, the current CBUAE banknotes replaced the previous issue of UAE Currency Board notes.

The new dirham

Fifty years on, the paper dirhams are being phased out with new polymer notes that were introduced in 2022. The first batch saw Dhs5 and Dhs10 being introduced which was followed by Dhs 50 and Dhs 1000.

The paper currency was replaced with polymer to promote sustainable practices by using environmentally-friendly and recyclable material. The banknotes are more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper ones, holding two or more times longer in circulation, as per the CBUAE.

The Dhs 5 note’s design includes UAE national symbols and landmarks. On the front is Ajman Fort, while on the back is Dhayah Fort in Ras Al Khaimah. The Dhs 10 note features the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and the Khor Fakkan Amphitheatre in Sharjah.

The notes have a transparent window featuring a portrait of the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. They also feature the UAE brand logo, along with fluorescent drawings and inscriptions created using special printing techniques.

The CBUAE issued a new polymer Dhs 1000 note in April 2023. This replaces the paper note which had been in circulation since 2015. The front side of the new banknote depicts the image of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, next to a model of a space shuttle, inspired by his meeting with the pioneers of the American space agency NASA in 1974.

The back of the new banknote features an image of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi, which will play a key role in diversifying energy sources in the country and reduce carbon emissions.

Following the release of the new note, the CBUAE shared that the new banknotes feature advanced security details that include modern technologies such as Spark Flow Dimensions, which has been used for the first time in banknotes circulated in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The UAE is the first in the MENA region to issue the largest multi-coloured Kinegram surface applied foil stripe in the new banknote issue.

Image Credit: Central Bank of the UAE

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