200 Qatari Riyal banknote with NMoQ in the background
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Birth of a Banknote

10 January 2021

By Loubna Zeidan

Mohammad Jassim Al-Kuwari of Qatar Central Bank explains the stories behind the designs of the new notes circulating in Qatar and the connection to Qatar Museums.

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Qatar is known to pay a great deal of attention to many forms of art, culture and education. Qatar Museums has played a pioneering role in this field by developing, strengthening and supporting the cultural sector at the highest levels, enriching the country's artistic and cultural movement.

These artistic and cultural commitments have resulted in a special space for the development of the new banknotes launched as part of Qatar's National Day celebrations on 18 December 2020. Among the new collection was a QAR 200 note, which features images of the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art and the palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani.

The new banknotes – seven in all – feature an array of beautiful images that reflect Qatar's history and embody the nation's heritage, environment, sports, economy and health and highlight some of the country’s most prominent tourist attractions, old and new.

The designs of each of the notes reflect various inspirations of Qatar's daily life. The front side of each note contains a common feature inspired by traditional geometric patterns, the flag of the State of Qatar and Qatar's flora (Dreama flower) and an ornate portal representing the historical architecture of the State of Qatar. The other side of the note, depending on its currency, features an array of images that reflect Qatar's heritage, such as its Islamic history, civilisation, flora and fauna, education, sports, and economic development.

This is a recognition that museums play a key role in the nation's economies and identity building.

Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson, Qatar Museums

The colours were chosen with great precision to differentiate the notes. In terms of aesthetics, the new note includes four types of Arabic calligraphy coupled with creative methods such as extension, roundness, intertwining, and overlapping lines to flow within the currency composition. Simultaneously, the English font is aesthetically pleasing and is similar to the font used on the sterling pound.

One of the men behind the new notes was Mohammad Jassim Al-Kuwari, Executive Director of the Public Debt, Banking Affairs and Currency Issue Sector at Qatar Central Bank. He supervised the creation and implementation of the designs, from the initial idea through launch.

Of the process, he said: "We started gathering ideas in 2015, sifting through and discussing designs for the new banknotes." He went on to explain how the new designs have been carefully selected from more than 120 proposals for each of the seven categories, each of which reflects the distinctive landmarks of the country.

Illustration of a one Qatari Riyal banknote

The QAR 1 note features the dhow, the shape of the conch and the pearl, symbolising the sea. As Al-Kuwari explained: "Most of the life in Qatari society is distributed between the desert and the sea."

Illustration of a five Qatari Riyal banknote

The Arabian horse, the camel, the oryx, the Al Ghaf tree and 'hair tent' (buryuut hajar) shown on the five riyal note symbolise the desert.

Illustration of a ten Qatari Riyal banknote

Al-Kuwari said: “Thinking of the slogan ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’, we chose Qatar Foundation, which includes Sidra Medicine, to represent a healthy mind. For a healthy body, we chose Aspire Zone, Aspetar Hospital, the Torch Tower and Lusail Stadium."

Illustration of a fifty Qatari Riyal banknote

For the QAR 50 note, Al-Kuwari pointed out that as part of the interconnectedness and coordination between monetary and fiscal policy in the country, they chose to add the Ministry of Finance building to the Qatar Central Bank in one composition.

Illustration of a one hundred Qatari Riyal banknote

The QAR 100 note depicts the Abu Al-Qubaib Mosque based on the suggestion of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. One of Qatar's oldest mosques, it was built during the founder of Qatar, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammad Al Thani's reign.

Illustration of a two hundred Qatari Riyal banknote

According to Al-Kuwari, the biggest challenge was the QAR 200. The images of the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art and Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani Palace were chosen for their role in promoting art, heritage and creativity and supporting the next generation of culture.

Five hundred Qatari Riyal banknote

Qatar is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, so it was appropriate to reflect that in the new designs. From here, the choice fell on the liquefied gas refinery in the Ras Laffan Industrial Zone, and the liquefied gas tanker in the design category of the QAR 500 note.

From Idea to Design

The new suite of notes needed a recurring theme. Something to bond them together. Qatar Central Bank demonstrated a strong desire to create something new and different, moving away from the inclusion of brackets repeated in previous currencies.

Al-Kuwari added: "For a week of continuous work with one of the designers of the British company De La Rue, the company responsible for the manufacture of the fifth edition, we designed several models in which we combined the geometric system, represented by polygons and the traditional geometric patterns, with the arch system, represented by the gate. The ornament reflects the historical architecture of the State of Qatar and the flag of the State of Qatar on a bank note, which is dominated by an upscale classic style."

He continued: “After we approved the design, we started working on choosing the appropriate colours for each category. The colour of each category should be as much as its value, and it was necessary for the colours of the seven notes to range from hot to cold. From more than 30 or 40 gradient colours of Qatar's environment, which are from the desert, sea and gardens. In total about ten colours were chosen for each individual note. The colours were distributed in a gradient and overlapping manner so that the beauty of each colour streamlined in a style that is attractive yet comfortable to the eye.”

We chose attractive designs that reflect the urban and economic renaissance of the state of Qatar.

Mohammad Jassim Al-Kuwari, Executive Director, Public Debt, Banking Affairs and Currency Issue Sector at Qatar Central Bank

The Aesthetic of the Arabic Language

After all the effort made in terms of extracting ideas, choosing designs and adopting colours, it was essential to think about the Arabic calligraphy that would be used in the writing of these notes. The Arabic language contains many fonts such as Al Thuluth line, Al Muhaqqaq line (Qur'anic Arabic script), Al Ejazah line, Al Naskh, for example. It was eventually decided that a handwriting technique would be used, instead of the computer line that had been used in the previous currencies. The task was entrusted to the international calligrapher Professor Ubaidah Al-Banki, who wrote the Qur'an for the State of Qatar. After more than six months of devising different and varied models, the four lines were adopted and distributed on the seven cash notes as follows:

  1. The phrase "Qatar Central Bank" – in Al Thuluth script
  2. The value of the category (one riyal, five riyals, one hundred riyals, etc.) – in Al Muhaqqaq script
  3. The phrase "a bank note whose value is guaranteed under the law" – in Al Ejazah script
  4. Signature of the Minister of Finance – in Al Naskh script

And for the English text used on the back of each note? "We adopted a type of font that is 99 per cent similar to the one used in the British pound,” Al-Kuwari said.

An Exclusive Collectible for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

The new notes aren't the only thing the team has been working on.

The Qatar Central Bank will also issue a commemorative FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ coin and banknote. The coins will be made in the medium of silver, gold-plated, while others made of pure gold in limited numbers (about 3,000 copies) will be available for the local market only. The banknote will be a single note currency that includes a barcode, through which a QR code reader will enable individuals to access information about Qatar in Arabic and English. An authorised certificate will also be distributed, containing information that the currency is 100 per cent legal and non-negotiable.

Loubna Zeidan is an Editorial Specialist at Qatar Museums.