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Discovering history through NMoQ's currency collection

1 March 2021

Walking the galleries, hallways and exhibition spaces of the National Museum of Qatar, it's hard to miss the immaculate display of rare artifacts in Gallery 9. Loaded with a collection of ancient currency, the gallery tells the tale of the region's commercial activity and trade ties throughout history.

NMoQ's display of historic coins, cash and banknotes is more than just an exhibit on currency; it is a way for visitors to explore the country's relationship with its neighbours and also brilliantly portray the critical foundations and economic success that have led to present-day Qatar. The collection marks critical developments in Qatar's history and the transformation of civilisation by giving an in-depth account of their significance in set time and date.

Evidence of this can be found through multiple excavations at historical ports and merchant towns in Qatar, where archaeologists have discovered surprising trade ties and key Islamic influence in found currency. An example of this is the distinctively shaped Taweelat Al Hasa from Al Ahsa in modern-day Saudi Arabia, Thalers of Austro-Hungarian Empress Maria Theresa and coins of Ottoman, Persian, and Omani dynasties. More in this list

  1. Taweelat Al Hasa,
  2. Ottoman coins of Sultan Selim III
  3. Ottoman coins of Sultan Abdul Hamid I
  4. Persian coins of King Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
  5. Omani coins of Imam Faisal bin Turki
  6. Austro-Hungarian coins of Maria Theresa


Taweelat Al Hasa © Qatar Museums 2020
Austro-Hungarian coins of Maria Theresa © Qatar Museums 2020

After becoming a British protectorate in 1916, Qatar adopted the British Indian Rupee as its primary currency, making it the first time in the county’s history that banknotes were used on such a scale. An interesting aspect about these banknotes were the printed pictures of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V and King George VI. A sight of this pivotal development in the region can easily be found at NMoQ’s collection that includes:

  1. The British Indian Rupee for Queen Victoria, 1862-1901
  2. The British Indian Rupee by Edward VII, 1903-1910
  3. The British Indian Rupee by George V, 1911-1936
  4. The British Indian Rupee by George VI, 1938-1947
The British Indian Rupee for Queen Victoria, 1862-1901 © Qatar Museums 2020

Moving down the timeline, three years after India's independence from Britain in 1950, Qatar witnessed the arrival of the Indian rupee that replaced British currency. This time around, the notes came bearing prints of Ashoka Lion's sculpture, a symbol of Indian independence.

Republic of India Rupee, 1950–1959 © Qatar Museums 2020

After the introduction of Indian currency came, in 1959 came the time when of when the sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf, with the help of the Indian government, issued a special currency for the region under the name, Gulf Rupee. The notes were similar in design to the Indian rupee but different in colour.

Gulf Rupee 1959 -1966 © Qatar Museums 2020

However, in 1966 the reduced exchange rate of the Gulf rupee against the Indian rupee by 35% created fear of devaluation and its adverse effects on the economy, which lead to the Saudi riyal being used for a period of 6 months. Right after, the Qatar and Dubai Monetary Council was established issuing the Qatar and Dubai Riyals on September 18, 1966, in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100. The early banknote designs were simple, bearing images of the dhow (the laden), an oil platform, a palm tree on the front, and Islamic motifs on the back, all of which are displayed to view at the National Museum of Qatar.


Saudi Riyal, 1966 © Qatar Museums 2020
Qatar and Dubai Riyal, 1966–1973 © Qatar Museums 2020

Circulation of the Qatari and Dubai riyals continued until 1973, when Dubai's accession to the United Arab Emirates led to the Qatar and Dubai Monetary Council's liquidation and the establishment of the Qatari Monetary Agency, resulting in the first Qatari currency bring issued, the Qatari Riyal.

On 19 May 1973, the Qatar Monetary Agency minted the first Qatari riyal banknotes in denominations 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 riyals. These banknotes were manufactured using the latest technology available, including fluorescent ink, security tape, and high-quality paper. The first edition designs displayed the country's architecture and development through paintings of ports, mosques, and the National Museum at the time. Altogether, the new currency's initial batch reflected Qatar's identity, its growth, and national presence in the region.

Qatari Riyal First Issue, 1973–1981 © Qatar Museums 2020

The second edition of the Qatari banknotes came soon after, in 1981. These notes featured icons and images of a steel factory and agricultural activities along with new copies of the old notes that had displayed the Qatar National Museum.

Qatari Riyal Second Issue, 1981–1996 © Qatar Museums 2020

Later on, Qatar Central Bank took over the task of launching the third issue in 1996, followed by the fourth in 2003. For these rounds, minor changes were made in terms of the design that had included the issuing agency's name.

Qatari Riyal Third Issue © Qatar Museums 2020
Qatari Riyal Fourth Issue © Qatar Museums 2020

To mark National Day 2020, on 18 December, the Qatar Central Bank launched the fifth edition that showcased the Qatar National Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art and Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani's palace on the new 200 riyal denomination. The introduction of this edition marked a new era for the country. It acknowledged the important role Qatar Museums has played in enriching and enhancing the country's cultural and artistic movement.

QR200: Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani, Qatar National Museum and Museum of Islamic Art.

Want to know more about all new fifth edition? Visit our blog channel and find out about it.

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