With a scenography designed by OMA / Iyad Alsaka and Kaveh Dabiri, the first edition of the Islamic Biennale has opened in Jeddah, hosted by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation. Artworks are displayed over 120,000 square meters of exhibition spaces, taking over the Western Hajj Terminal, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and winner of the Aga Khan Award in 1983.Under the title Awwal Bait, which translates as First House, the biennale explores how Islam’s most sacred sites, Makkah, the destination of the annual pilgrimage, and Madinah, the place where Prophet Mohamed is buried, inspire Muslims around the world to create a sense of belonging in their home, bringing unity in a plural world.The OMA-designed scenography divides the exhibition space into two complementary parts:(1) A choreographed trajectory through a sequence of newly built galleries allows visitors a progressive sense of orientation as they move from one room to another. Inspired by the concept of the Qiblah – the direction Muslims face when they pray – the exhibits manifest gradually in a journey from darkness to light, starting in a dimly lit room filled with 17th-century astrolabes – used to calculate the Qiblah – and concluding in the bright space hosting an installation which incorporates the First Saudi Door of the Ka`bah in Makkah, installed during the reign of King Abdul Aziz.(2) Under the terminal’s canopy, a desert-like landscape alludes to the journey of Hijrah – Prophet Mohamed’s journey from Makkah to Madinah. Slopes and slanted walls of various heights, arranged in relation to the geometry of the existing structure, have been built to display the artworks, creating a sense of exploration throughout the visit. Two freestanding pavilions act as reference points in the open landscape, exhibiting artefacts from Makkah and Madinah. In contrast to the rough atmosphere outside, the exhibits in the two pavilions are embedded in a bright, diaphanous screen wrapping the perimeter of the walls.Independent from the theme of the Biennale, a separate gallery named AlMadar, or The Orbit, features items from twelve local and international institutions including Kuwait’s Al Sabah Collection of Islamic art, together with an exhibition that pays homage to the Hajj Terminal – both celebrating their 40th anniversary.