The highly anticipated inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale has opened its doors, welcoming over 100,000 visitors in its first 15 days. Guests from far and wide came to experience its contemporary commissions, artefacts, events, and activities which will run until April 23, 2023, at the Western Hajj Terminal of the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. Themed ‘Awwal Bait’, meaning ‘First House’, in reference to the Holy Ka’bah in Makkah, the Biennale takes visitors on an immersive, multi-sensory journey through the past, present and future of the Islamic arts.
The Biennale is a must-visit, featuring over 40 established and emerging artists from around the globe, over 50 new commissions, 280 artefacts and over 15 never-before-exhibited artefacts. Saudi Arabian heritage and artistic talent is on full display with 18 Saudi artists presenting over 40 pieces of work, in addition to items loaned from 13 institutions in the kingdom including the National Museum, the King Abdulaziz Library, King Abdulaziz Waqf Libraries Assembly (KAWLA), the King Fahad National Library, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Joined by a curated selection of pieces from esteemed international artists and institutions dedicated to the Islamic arts, this historic first edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale provides a holistic, novel perspective of the Islamic arts for local and international audiences. Below is a list of everything you need to know as you plan your visit to this first-of-its-kind exhibition.
Entrance to the Biennale is free and accessible to all, but be sure to register and book tickets online on the Islamic Arts Biennale website ahead of your visit, as you will be requested to present a unique QR code upon arrival. The Biennale is located at the Western Hajj Terminal of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport – which is accessible by car, as well as taxi services. If visiting directly from the airport, signages at the terminal will guide you to the quickest route to the entrance. The Biennale venue is open from 11am – 11pm from Saturday – Thursday, and 2pm – 11pm on Fridays.
There are a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces located within the Biennale venue – each purpose-built to create a cohesive journey for visitors. The experience broadly encompasses two sections: Qiblah, an inward journey that explores the practice of being Muslim and its role in shaping people on a personal and communal level; and Hijrah, which showcases an outward journey and takes on multiple interpretations of migration and connection in Islam.
1. The Galleries – The first part of the Biennale, Qiblah, includes a linear sequence of four galleries that explore key rituals in the Islamic faith, and the meaning of being a Muslim today. It integrates historical artefacts with contemporary artistic expressions, features large-scale installations and uses digital elements and modulated lighting to heighten the visitors’ sensorial experience.
Various exhibits are arranged to take visitors on a journey of rituals practiced by millions of muslims around the world – including Adhan, the call to prayer, Wudu’ (ablution), Salah (prayer) and more. Showcased items range from artefacts loaned from the Haramain Authority in Makkah and preserved folios of the Qur’an from across regions and time periods; to soul-stirring artworks such as an audio installation combining adhans from around the world, and a spatial installation that draws on a collection of well-loved prayer rugs.
2. The Canopy – Hijrah, the second part of the Biennale, is spread across a wider open space under the award-winning canopy of the Hajj Terminal. Literally translating to ‘migration’, a key moment in Islam, Hijirah reflects on how rituals help build a sense of universal belonging for Muslims around the world, and the creation and evolution of a shared culture.
Commissioned artworks are clustered together in themes that allow visitors to walk through the space at their own leisure. The showcased works cover various concepts such as time, with a celestial clock and an exploration of the sundial’s history in the Islamic World; geographies, with a zero-carbon mosque built with panels from Pakistan and Bangladesh; a glass sculpture made from sand from Palestine; and senses, via a concept that uses scent, sound and touch to trace the story of Oud.
However, a must-see within this space are the Makkah Al-Mukarramah and Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah pavilions, which comprise a selection of items from the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and the Hujra al-Sharifa in Madinah respectively. The materials range from a silver-gilt door of the Ka’abah from the 11th century, to folios and manuscripts, scrolls, paintings and more. A selection of photographs also showcase the Bani Shaibah, the keepers of keys to the Ka’abah since Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) handed it to them, as well as the much-revered qiblah wall and minaret of the Prophet’s mosque.
3. AlMadar – This satellite exhibition is the largest gallery on the Biennale grounds, and features exhibits from twelve highly acclaimed cultural institutions from across the globe. With the objective to establish a stage for thought-provoking discussions and research on the Islamic arts, the pioneering initiative has seen participation by institutions from local, regional and international institutions. These include Saudi Arabia’s General Presidency of the Affairs of the Great Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra); Middle Eastern nations such as Egypt, Tunisia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman; as well as countries such as Mali, Greece, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
4. Public programming – As an integral part of the world’s first biennale dedicated to the Islamic arts, the program is designed to engage children, young adults, local artists, and professionals, providing participants with the opportunity to explore and experience the Islamic arts by bringing over 100 local and international experts to contribute to 117 educational workshops, 100+ talks and panels, 50+ creative arts and crafts experiences, 10+ daily school visits and Art 101s. Through the program, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the Islamic Arts, explore traditional subjects in novel ways, and immerse themselves into cultural experiences by trying their hand at authentic craftsmanship and culinary classes.
Visitors can access the public programming list and book their sessions at The inaugural edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale runs from January 23rd to April 23rd, 2023 in Jeddah. For more information on the biennale, exhibits and programming, please visit



Notes to Editors


Established in 2020 by the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia and inspired by Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage and its artists and makers, Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF) assumes a critical and catalyzing role in nurturing creative expression and instilling an appreciation for the transformative power of the arts. Central to the Foundation’s mandate is to stage two recurring world-class biennales in contemporary and Islamic arts, alongside year-round interactive educational programs focused on engaging public audiences. The Foundation’s Contemporary Art Biennale held at the JAX district of Diriyah in 2021/2 was the Kingdom’s first biennale dedicated to contemporary art, providing a platform for discovery of and connection with Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning cultural scene and creative communities.

The inaugural edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale will be hosted at the Western Hajj Terminal of the King Abdulaziz International airport in Jeddah from January 2023 to April 2023 and is the first-of-its-kind in the world, interweaving contemporary works and never-seen-before historic artefacts.

For more information and latest updates, visit To join our conversation, follow Diriyah Biennale Foundation on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and follow #DiriyahBiennaleFoundation.


Diriyah Biennale Foundation’s Islamic Arts Biennale provides a holistic platform for new discourse around the Islamic arts, offering an unparalleled platform for learning, research, and insight into the genre. The exhibition will take place every two years and will be hosted at the Aga Khan award-winning Western Hajj Terminal in the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, a city that for centuries has represented a junction point for cultural exchange and a venue that acts a port of entry for millions of pilgrims on their journey to Mecca and Medina.
For more information, visit To join our conversation, follow Diriyah Biennale Foundation on Youtube Twitter Instagram and Facebook and follow the hashtags #IslamicArtsBiennale #DiriyahBiennaleFoundation.