Most of us educated in the west are aware of two main kinds of numbers; Arabic and Roman. We always thought we were being taught the Arabic style with 0-9 instead of the Roman style with all those pesky X’s, M’s, I’s, C’s and V’s. Well our teachers were partly right. We were learning the Arabic system, but the symbols for the numbers are completely different as illustrated below :
The numbers on the left are of course familiar to most westerners as Arabic numerals, the ones to the right are the real Arabic numerals. The only two similar symbols are the 1’s and the 9’s. Luckily the paper money in the U.A.E. is printed in familiar western symbols on one side and Arabic on the other. Beware of the zero. The 5 AED note is “0” and the 50 is “0.” so one has to look closely to catch the little dot that raises the value X10.
The Arabic number system was the first in history that used the concept of “zero” as an X10 multiplier and digit placeholder. The Romans weren’t so clever in this department so the more flexible Arabic system prevails to this day.