Do you ever stop and notice the various objects that appear on your UAE dirham coins and notes? While they may seem a bit abstract in nature, a lot of these symbols are representative of the UAE’s heritage and reflect the country’s progress from a fishing town to the multi-cultural metropolis today. Let’s take a look at some of these UAE currency symbols and by the end of it, we’re pretty sure you’ll learn a thing or two about the rich culture and heritage of this vibrant country.
1. Dallah Coffee Pot
Representing the core of Emirati culture, hospitality for guests, the Dallah coffee pot appears on the most commonly-used denomination of the UAE currency – AED 1 coins. The age-old tradition of welcoming guests with a steaming pot of Arabic coffee and dates is practised among Emirati families till today. Arabic coffee (called Qahwa) is usually a delicious blend of cardamom and saffron served in tiny cups.
2. Oil Derricks
And then, there was oil! The little structures you see on 50 Fils coins are actually three oil derricks marking the turning point in the UAE’s history. Contributing massively to the country’s progress, oil was first discovered in the 1950s, even before the seven emirates had united to form the UAE. Before the discovery of oil, fishing and pearl-diving were the main sources of income in the UAE. The first export took place in 1962 from Abu Dhabi, and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. Omani Dagger
You may remember seeing these traditional daggers sold in souvenir shops around the UAE. The Omani dagger, or khanjar in Arabic, was traditionally carried by men who used the weapon for hunting and protection. The object continues to be of a cultural significance today, symbolizing security and power prevalent in the UAE. Today you’ll find these daggers at several souqs around the country in beautifully-adorned cases. While the need to carry them around may have diminished, these distinguished cultural objects make great collector’s items and remain an iconic symbol of the UAE’s heritage and cultural past.
4. Palm Tree
The one thing that was always around in the UAE is, of course, the palm tree. This one’s a UAE national symbol that we most strongly associate with life in the Middle East. The palm tree was a source of food and shelter before the country transformed into the modern, commercial hub that we know. Symbolizing sustenance and hospitality, the palm tree appears on the AED 10 currency note as a reminder of what stood tall in the country before the era of the skyscrapers and shopping malls.
5. Dhow Sailing Boat
The iconic dhow boat appears on the AED 20 currency note. Early day Emiratis relied almost solely on fishing and pearl diving for their income. These traditional sailing vessels with their distinct lateen sails would take divers and fishermen out to sea for months at a time. Sailing and freediving were dominant occupations among most local men. Like a lot of the national symbols, this one also serves as a reminder of the pre-oil era in the UAE, when men needed to rely on dhow boats to make ends meet.
6. Arabian Oryx
You may remember seeing this distinct antelope on your AED 50 currency notes. This regal creature is a desert native and also the UAE’s national animal. Its population was marked as extinct back in the 1970s but thanks to conservation efforts mainly by H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Oryx survives and roams the land with pride. While it does not have a cultural or economic significance in UAE traditions, the Arabian Oryx is a testament to the country’s constant dedication towards preserving its native wildlife.
7. The Falcon
You may already know the importance of these majestic birds and their central role in Emirati culture, resulting in the much-loved tradition of falconry today. Bedouins first used these birds to hunt small prey native to the desert and managed to train falcons to deliver it while it’s still alive. This survival tactic gradually evolved into what is a favourite pastime amongst locals and a fascinating cultural aspect for tourists today. A regular on UAE currency notes, the falcon is also the national bird of the UAE and sits proudly as the official emblem of the country.
So there you have it – a glimpse into the rich and fascinating UAE heritage through the national symbols that we see on its currency. Don’t let the skyscrapers fool you, there is so much more to this country than meets the eye. Lying just below the dazzling shopping malls and vertigo-inducing towers, the UAE has its own cultural identity that it has managed to proudly retain over the many years of change and progress.