Look: This UAE expat visited, captured all landmarks featured on dirham banknotes, except one

For two years, he has explored the country, taking photos of all the places sketched on the back of the currency notes


Nasreen Abdulla

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Sat 17 Jun 2023, 3:44 PM

Last updated: Sat 17 Jun 2023, 10:46 PM

Ever looked at a UAE currency note and wondered where the places pictured on it are? That is exactly what occurred to explorer Shihab Abdulla when he visited the Sharjah Gold Souq, also known as the Central Market.

“When I stood in front of it, I realised that this was the same place that was featured on the Dh5 note,” he said. “So I took a note out of my wallet and took a photo. Then I became curious about the other places on other notes.”

This curiosity then snowballed into a passion project which saw the Indian expat visit 19 landmarks over a course of more than two years. “I had finished almost all the landmarks on the old notes when the new notes were released,” he said. “In between that I had some issues with my job. During all the challenges, this project was a solace and it kept me going.”


This project took Shihab all across the UAE as he researched, tracked down, and photographed the featured landmarks. He said he faced several challenges during the course of this project.

“At the Shariah court in Abu Dhabi, they refused to let me photograph the building because photography is not allowed there,” he said. “Then I submitted a request along with the details of my project showing all the previous photos. Finally, they allowed me.”

According to him, some of the other challenges included getting the right angle for the photographs. “The photo of Dhayah Fort on the new Dh5 note is a shot taken from a helicopter,” he said.

“Obviously, I don’t have access to a helicopter. So, I went to various spots around the fort to get the best possible shot. Out of all the shots, I picked the one that showed the closest resemblance to the photo on the note.”

Similarly, the photo on the Dh1,000 note is taken from the sea. “If you look at it, it is a very close-up shot and was taken from the sea,” he said. “I headed to the marina side and took a photo from near the mall. So even that shot doesn’t have the perfection of the one on the note.”

Miles to go

A passionate explorer, Shihab has travelled the length and breadth of the country in search of hidden gems and exciting spots.

“Travelling is a passion of mine,” he said. “I have hiked almost every mountain trail in the country. It is my dream to visit at least one country a year but due to various issues, I have not been able to fulfil it. I also want to do bungee jumping and skydiving in the UAE. I am slowly working towards fulfilling those dreams.”

In spite of all this effort, there is one photo remaining on Shihab’s bucket list. “The photo on the new Dh1,000 note is that of the Barakah Nuclear plant,” he said. “It is situated 400km away from where I stay. Also, it is a protected area so I am not sure if I will be allowed to photograph there. So that is the only one that I have not been able to photograph. I hope that someday I will be able to do it.”


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