We all learned about the great Egyptian culture and pharaohs in history class as children. And with its Pyramids at Giza, Suez Canal and other historical sites, Egypt is on many people’s bucket list to visit. Egypt also hosts many sun worshippers at its range of seaside resorts in the Sinai. Egyptian history and regional importance has spanned at least three millennia, and its banknotes have always represented its history well, while including modern themes and buildings.

Egypt, Cairo | Giza. View of pyramids with Sphinx |
Source: AS

The Beginnings of the Egypt Pound

Prior to WWI, Egypt had been part of the Ottoman Empire sphere of influence. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt increased its economic and political ties to both England and France. It gained its independence from Great Britain in 1922 but maintained strong connections through WWII. It is interesting that Egypt never had the UK monarch on their currency, but they adopted the name “pound” for their currency. During the inter-war period, Egypt had a king who was present on its banknotes like the 1926 1 Egyptian Pound (P-26). This banknote has similar coloring to Palestinian banknote from the time and had similar level of complex security line features. On the reverse there is also an image of an Egyptian cityscape including a Mosque. In the 1930 series, the King’s image was replaced with a image of a pharaoh on the 1 Pound (P22). The 10 pound from that series (P-23) is a gorgeous banknote. The front has multiple colors blended into a coherent design that includes a portrait of a mosque. The reverse shows multiple images related to farming and agriculture.

Egypt 10 Pounds | 1950 | P-23c.4 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Evolution Over The Years

After WWII, the relationship with England was strained over nationalist desires in Egypt and the importance of the Suez Canal. By 1952, the strain led to a change in government which eventually led to the rule for Gamal Abdel Nasser. Again, interestingly the banknotes never had Nasser’s portrait. 

The series issued in 1952 began to have the overall themes with a religious image on the front and an image related to Egypt’s ancient glory on the back. The 5 pound note (P-31) shows them balance of present day focus on Islamic images and pre-common era greatness. The 1967 10 Pound (P-46) has a similar concept- A mosque on the front and a sitting pharaoh on the reverse. The notes smaller than 1 pound are called Piastres. These notes typically have a mosque on the front and a nationalistic image on the reverse. The 1978 25 piastres (P-49) shows Al-Sayida Aisha mosque on the front and the Egyptian coat of arms on the back flanked by images of important crops including corn, wheat and cotton. 

Egypt 5 Piastres | 2001 | P-188 |
Source: Banknote World

Banknotes In The Modern Day

In the last 20 years, the designs have not changed much on any denomination, but the notes have become more colorful and possess more security features. The 20 pound note design was first issued in 1978, but still exists. It is a beautiful banknote. The front shows the Mosque of Muhammed Ali in the center and a dynamic image of a Pharoah’s war chariot. The image is based on a frieze from the chapel of Sesostris I. The highest denomination today is the 200 pound note. It now includes security features like SICPA Spark Live and a windowed security thread. The note has a large portrait of the Mosque of Qani-Bay and an image of the Seated Scribe. The Bank has discussed introducing a 500 Pound note but that has not been issued.

The economy in Egypt has been more stable in recent years after significant turmoil from 2009 – 2017. It is possible the Bank no longer sees the need for a higher denomination, but if it is issued, it will likely follow the same themes and be just as impressive as the recent designs.

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