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Birth of a bank note: An emblem of art and culture in Qatar

21 January 2021

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 recently in Qatar. They were initiated as part of Qatar's National Day celebrations on 18 December 2020. Among the new collection was a 200 QAR note, upon which the images of the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art and the palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani are depicted. The three architectural buildings were selected as they play a pivotal role in the art space of Qatar.

Culture is a bridge for peace and dialogue. Culture is also a key component for a thriving economy. Thanks to Qatar Central Bank for issuing the new QR 200 currency carrying the images of @NMoQatar and @MIAQatar. 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 of Qatar Museums

Noticed Qatari history reflected in the banknote? Look closer…

The new set of banknotes – seven in all – each feature an array of beautiful images that reflect Qatar's history and embody the 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 seven banknotes designs 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, and depending on its currency, features an array of images that reflect Qatar's heritage, such as its Islamic history, civilisation, flora and fauna environment, educational, sports, and economic development.

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 & Currency Issue Sector at Qatar Central Bank. He supervised the creation and implementation of the designs, starting from the idea until the issuance of the banknotes and their launch in the markets.

Of the process, he said: "We started gathering ideas since 2015, sifting through and discussing designs for the new banknotes, since the Qatar Central Bank had the conviction that a new issue should be put on the market, more than ten years after the last issue in 2003."

He further went on to explain how the new designs have been carefully selected from more than 120 proposals for each of the seven categories. Each one to reflect the distinctive landmarks of the country, including the National Museum of Qatar, which is shown on the design of the 200 QAR note. It also includes an image of Lusail Stadium, which will crown the final champions of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 ™ on the 10 QAR bill.

Ideas and Inspiration: Behind the scenes

After the designs were completed and the images selected, it was necessary to translate and adopt innovative slogans to implement them. This was, Al-Kuwari explained, another important part of the process. He added: "Since most of the life in the Qatari society is distributed between the desert and the sea, we have adopted the dhow, the shape of the conch and the pearl that symbolizes the sea on the one riyal issue; while adopting the Arabian horse, the camel, the oryx, the Al Ghaf tree and ‘hair tent’ (buryuut hajar) which symbolises the desert, in the five riyal issue.”

 

QR1: Traditional Dhow (Bateel) and the Oyster and Pearl Monument.
QR5: Traditional desert scene comprising fauna (Arab Horses, Camel, Oryxes), flora (Al Ghaf) and ‘hair tent’ (buryuut hajar).

He continued: “Among the slogans that came to our minds while gathering ideas was ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’. A healthy mind symbolises education, thinking, study, and knowledge. As for a healthy body, it represents sport, health and other things. We chose Qatar Foundation to represent a healthy mind, as it is an educational edifice that resulted in a comprehensive educational city that includes international universities and Sidra Medicine. For a healthy body, we chose Aspire Zone, as it includes a sports academy consisting of stadiums, Aspetar Hospital and the Torch Tower. We have also included Lusail Stadium, which will host the Qatar 2022 final. All of these images combined are the result of the 10 QAR design.”

QR10: Lusail Stadium, Torch tower (Aspire Zone) , Sidra Medicine and Education City (Qatar Foundation).
We chose attractive designs that reflect the urban and economic renaissance of the State of Qatar
Mohammad Jassim Al-Kuwari, Executive Director of the Public Debt. Banking Affairs & Currency Issue Sector at Qatar Central Bank

Al-Kuwari pointed out that it was customary to adopt the Qatar Central Bank plate on previous versions of the 50 QAR note. However, 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 that includes the two edifices in the same note.

 

QR 50: Qatar Central Bank building and Ministry of Finance building.

As for the design of the 100 QAR note, the banknote depicts the Abu Al-Qubaib Mosque based on the suggestion of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the country "may God protect him". The mosque is considered one of Qatar's oldest mosques and was built during the founder of Qatar, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammad Al-Thani's reign.

 

QR100: Abu Al Qubaib Mosque.

According to Al-Kuwari, the biggest challenge was approaching the 200 QAR composition. As a new denomination, the images needed to be carefully selected and deemed appropriate. In view of the high position of arts and culture in the State of Qatar, it was essential to highlight this position and therefore; the images of the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art and Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani Palace were chosen to be used in the design of the 200 QAR notes. The museums, he explained, were selected as they play a pivotal role to promote art, heritage and creativity in Qatar as well as its surroundings, supporting the next generation of cultural audiences.

 

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

Since Qatar is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, it was appropriate to choose pictures of some gas facilities 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 500 QAR note.

 

QR500: Ras Laffan LNG Refinery and LNG carrier ship.

From general idea to refined 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 banknote, 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 there were about ten colours have been 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.”

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 will 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, etc. It was eventually decided that a handwriting technique was to adopt the new currencies instead of the computer line that was used in the previous currencies. For this purpose, 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 banknote whose value is guaranteed under the law" - in Al Ejazah script
  4. Signature of the Minister of Finance - in Al Naskh script

 

And what about the English font used on the back of each note?

"We adopted a type of font that is 99% similar to the one used in the British pound,” he said. “Because of its distinctive aesthetic qualities.”

An exclusive collectable for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

The new notes are not all the team has been working on. There’s more to come.

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 pure gold in limited numbers (about 3,000 copies) 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 learn information about Qatar's State in terms of its location, population, culture, economy and language. The information will be available in Arabic and English. An authorised certificate will also be distributed, containing information that this currency is 100 percent legal and non-negotiable.

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