What is Dubai's Currency?

What is Dubai’s Currency? The Truth About Dirhams (AED)

Dubai, and more broadly the United Arab Emirates, is an example of how differing views and conflicts can be managed in a way that bring peace and prosperity to its citizens. Since the 2nd of December 1971 – when seven disparate sheikhdoms joined forces and established the UAE – the country has been a beacon of financial prosperity.

The Dirham (AED) is the single currency of the United Arab Emirates; therefore, it is Dubai’s currency, as well. The Dirham was first issued in 1976 and is tied to the United States Dollar at an exchange rate of 1 US dollar = 3.6725 Dirhams. The currency consists of 3 coins and 8 bank notes.

The currency of Dubai is managed by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE), headquartered in Abu Dhabi. The CBUAE manages the manufacturing of the physical currency as well as exchange controls and other value-controlling issues.

Dubai’s Currency

Currency in Dubai

Before the Dirham was introduced as the national currency across the United Arab Emirates, the Bahraini Dinar and the Qatari and Dubai Riyal currencies were used side by side. The  Dinar and the Riyal had been in circulation since 1966.

The Dirham was first put into circulation on 19 May 1973.

In 1980, Law No. 10 established the United Arab Emirates central bank while also overhauling the monetary system and the organization of the banking sector.

What Does the Currency Look Like?

The currency consists of both coin and paper denominations, as follows.

The Coins

Coins in Circulation Dubai Currency

When it was launched, the currency consisted of the following coin denominations.

  1. 1 fil – Bronze
  2. 5 fils – Bronze
  3. 10 fils – Bronze
  4. 25 fils – Copper Nickle Alloy
  5. 50 fils – Copper Nickle Alloy
  6. 1 dirham – Copper Nickle Alloy

The 1, 5, and 10 fils are rarely used nowadays and are considered a rarity.

The three most commonly circulated coins are as follows:

Denomination Diameter Thickness Weight Edge Shape Top Side Reverse Side
25 fils 20mm 1.5mm 3.5g Milled Circular A gazelle, and Lunar Hijri Gregorian year of mint الامارات العربية المتحدة, ٢٥, “فلساً


50 fils 21mm 1.7mm 4.4g Smooth Heptagon Oil derricks and Lunar Hijri Gregorian year of mint الامارات العربية المتحدة, ٥۰ “فلساً UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
1 dirham 24mm 2.0mm 6.1g Mille Circular Dallah, and Lunar Hijri Gregorian year of mint الامارات العربية المتحدة١,”درهم  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Development of the Coins

The size and shape of the coins were redesigned in 1995, and the new 50 fils featured a curved equilateral-heptagonal shape.

A total of 22 gold and 58 silver commemorative coins have been issued since 1976. This includes the three silver commemorative coins mentioned below.

The First UAE Astronaut

First Emirati Astronaut Commemorative Coin Dubai Currency

On the 1st of February 2020, a 50 Dirham silver coin was issued to celebrate the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza Al Mansoori, to reach space.

The coin weighed 40 grams.

To Recognize Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Sheikh Zayed Commemorative Coin Dubai Currency

On the 21st of April, 2019, a 100 Dirham silver coin was issued to commemorate a man who has come to be known as the United Arab Emirates Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (6 May 1918 – 2 November 2004), and the role he played in establishing the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the ruler of Abu Dhabi and became the first President of the United Arab Emirates. He is credited as the driving force behind the uniting of the seven Emirates.

The coin weighed 60 grams and was issued to commemorate the late Sheikh’s birth centenary.

To Recognize the Asian Cup

Asian Cup Commemorative Coin Dubai Currency

On the 8th of January, 2019, one Dirham silver coin was issued to commemorate the Asian Cup, which the United Arab Emirates hosted.

The Commemorative Dirham had a diameter of 24.0mm and weighed 6.10 grams.

Bank Notes

Notes in Circulation Dubai Currency

The bank notes are available in the following denominations.

  1. 5 dirhams – brown
  2. 10 dirhams – green
  3. 20 dirhams – light blue
  4. 50 dirhams – purple
  5. 100 dirhams – pink
  6. 200 dirhams – green/brown
  7. 500 dirhams – navy blue
  8. 1,000 dirhams – greenish blue

The details of the bank notes are as follows.

Denomination Primary Color Dimensions Top Side Reverse Side
5 dirhams Brown 143mm × 60mm The Central Market Imam Salem Al Mutawa Mosque
10 dirham Green 147mm × 62mm Khanjar – Traditional Dagger A pilot farm
20 dirhams Light Blue 149mm × 63mm Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club Traditional trading dhow
50 dirhams Purple 151mm × 64mm Oryx – four large antelope Al-Jahili Fort – A fort in Abu Dhabi
100 dirhams Pink 15mm5 × 66mm Al Fahidi Fort – The oldest building in Dubai Dubai World Trade Centre
200 dirhams Green/brown 157mm × 67mm Zayed Sports City Stadium and the Sharia court building Central Bank of the UAE
500 dirhams Navy Blue 159mm × 68mm saker falcon – large species of falcon Jumeirah Mosque
1,000 dirhams Greenish Blue 163mm × 70mm Qasr al-Hosn – Oldest Stone Building In Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi skyline

Development of the Dirham Notes

The 50 Dirham note (AED 50) was released into circulation on the 22nd of March 2008 and was the first note to feature a 3mm wide security thread that included a color-shifting window.

On the 7th of December 2021, the 50 Dirham note was again redesigned to commemorate the country’s Golden Jubilee on the 2nd of September 2021.

The 5 and 10 Dirham notes were redesigned to conform to the polymer security standard on the 1st of April 2022.

Polymer Bank Notes

1000 Dirhams Polymer Dubai Currency

Between 2021 and 2022, the Central Bank of the UAE issued four polymer bank notes:

  • 5 dirhams
  • 10 dirhams
  • 50 dirhams
  • 1,000 dirhams

Polymer banknotes are created in a layered printing process, where each unique element is added to the banknote one at a time until the note is completely “built”. Designed to be more robust, the notes are splashproof, 100% recyclable, and last more than twice as long as paper currencies do, even under harsh handling conditions.

The Dirham Exchange Rate

Although the Dirham is officially pegged against the International Monetary Funds (IMF) special drawing rights, this is a currency mechanism intended to act as an alternative to the US dollar.

As all oil transactions are pegged in dollar prices, the reality is that the UAE Dirham is pegged against the dollar.

Since 1st November 1997, the exchange rate has remained at

  • 1 US dollar = 3.6725 dirhams.
  • 1 dirham = 0.272294 dollar.

Legal Protection of the UAE Currency

UAE Currency Legal Protection

There are strict laws that have been enacted to protect the currency and which include.

Punishment for Damaging the Notes and Coins

Federal Law No. 14 of 2020 was promulgated and passed into law.

This regulation imposes a fine of a minimum of 1,000 Dirhams (1,000AED) or multiples of ten times the value of any currency deliberately defaced, torn, or mutilated.

Harming or Mocking the State, Flag, or Currency

Article 176 (bis) of the Penal Code Federal criminalizes any act which mocks, insults, or otherwise harms the reputation or the morals of the United Arab Emirates, the flag, or its currency.

If found guilty, punishment ranges from a minimum 10-year or maximum 25-year jail sentence and a minimum fine of AED 500,000.


The single currency for the United Arab Emirates was introduced in 1976 and since then has effectively been tied to the US dollar value. Representing one of the wealthiest countries globally, the Dirham has remained very stable since its first launch.


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