With the World Cup taking place in Qatar between November and December 2022, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a deeper dive into the currency of the host nation. Below we’ll look at the history, the production and the economy that sits behind the Qatari Riyal.
A bit of history…
The State of Qatar is located on what is known as the ‘Qatar Peninsula’ which juts out of Saudi Arabia. It has been ruled, under multiple guises, by the same ruling family since 1868. Between 1871-1915 it was under the de-facto control of the Ottoman Empire and from 1916-1971 was a British protectorate.
During the British Protectorate era, the country used the Gulf Rupee, a currency that was first strongly connected with Sterling and then with India and their Rupee. Other Gulf nations like Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE also used this currency.
In the 60s, Qatar first replaced the Gulf Rupee with the new Saudi Riyal and then entered into a treaty with Dubai to create the Qatar and Dubai riyal. When Dubai joined the UAE in 1973, the Qatari Riyal as we know it today came into existence.
Coins and Banknotes…
When the currency was first introduced, it was subdivided into 100 dirhams. The country issued 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 dirham coins. Over time though, the smaller denominations were used less frequently and now only the 25 and 50 dirham coins are in use. This is in large part due to price rises and inflation, for example the cost of a small bottle of water today in Qatar is over 1 Rial.
The first banknotes issued were the QR 1, QR 5, QR 10, QR 22, QR 50 and QR 100. In the second round of issuing, the QR 500 was introduced and in a later series, the QR200 was introduced.
In commemoration of the World Cup, the country introduced a special 22 riyal note.
Interestingly, despite being a monarchy, and having a national anthem titled ‘Peace to the Emir,’ the currency does not feature the image of the Emir on the banknotes or coins.
A strong currency in a rich economy...
Despite its relatively small size (Qatar is the world’s 37th smallest country at 11,000 km2) the population is over 2 million and the economy is one of the world’s richest. The country started life as an impoverished backwater yet they now have the third highest GDP in the world.
This wealth almost all comes from Liquified Natural Gas. Qatar has one of the world’s biggest LNG fields and is the world’s biggest exporter. It drives billions of revenue each year which allows the Qatari government to spend lavishly on its glittering capital city Doha and make vast investments around the world.
The Riyal is pegged to the US Dollar and has been so since the early 2000’s. This peg is used to effectively support the country through periods of energy price fluctuations. It is currently set at a fixed exchange rate of US$1 = QR 3.64.