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Middle Eastern Paper Money

Paper currency in the Middle East arose in the middle of the 19th century. While many Middle Eastern coins have no depictions of famous figures or religious icons, paper money escaped that cultural stigma. For example, pre-1925 Iranian notes depicted King Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar, the first Persian or Iranian monarch to formally visit Europe on a diplomatic mission.

Other regions in the Middle East traditionally avoid the use of symbols or personages. Egyptian paper money shows notable mosques on the front and famous archaeological sites on the reverse. Egyptian paper money also has the unusual, though not unique, trait of increasing slightly in size with denomination.

Modern Israel's banknotes are very interestingly designed. The second-issue series features images on the bills intended to be viewed while holding them vertically, but with inscriptions that were displayed horizontally. In 2012, Israel released a third series of notes featuring famous Israeli poets on the obverse horizontally.

Quick Facts

  • In modern Iran, as in much of the rest of the world, small bills are falling out of favor. It has become common practice for shopkeepers to hand out a package of gum as change instead of small currency
  • Jordan’s paper money shows the date of printing in both Gregorian and Islamic calendar dates
  • The currency systems in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar are descended from the use of the Maria Theresa Thaler bullion coin, while most of the rest of the Middle East descends from the British pound

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