UAE currency: This highly cultured Dh500 note is good to have - unless you want to pay for a taxi

Dh500 is the second largest value banknote in general circulation

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UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

The UAE's currency was introduced on May 20, 1973, a little over two years after the country was formed.

Prior to the dirham, the rupee, dinar and even the Maria Theresa silver thaler were used.

In this weekly series, The National breaks down the historical and cultural significance of the designs for each of the dirham denominations.


The pleasure at having a Dh500 note might be tempered when you try to spend it, with alarm being the general reaction if offered to a taxi driver or corner shop owner.

The second highest value banknote in the UAE may prove a challenge when it comes to getting change, but has literal value when it comes to managing large cash transactions.

It was introduced in 1982, as part of the major reassessment of the country’s banknotes, which led to the end of the Dh1 note and a complete rethink of the currency’s appearance.

The basic design of the Dh500, though, has remained unchanged for nearly 40 years, except for increased anti-forgery measures that includes a see-through “window” introduced in 2011.

The English language face shows Dubai’s Jumeirah Mosque, opened in 1979, and one of the few places of Islamic worship open to non-Muslims. As such it represents both the country’s official faith and its openness and tolerance to other religions.

The Arabic face shows the enlarged profile of a saqer falcon facing left, making the Dh500 the only note to depict two falcons, the second being part of the design of all UAE banknotes.

The saqer is one of the most popular falcons used for hunting, and represents the culture of the UAE. In the wild though, and especially in Asia, its numbers are threatened.

Environment Agency Abu Dhabi has been leading conservation efforts for the saqer, including 5,000 artificial nests in Mongolia and measure to prevent electrocution on power pylons.

The inspiration behind the design of the UAE's currency

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets