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Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design

Tucked away in the exclusive Black Point residential neighborhood near the iconic Diamond Head is one of the most unique and historical treasures, the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design.  Originally the home of internationally renowned philanthropist, art collector, horticulturist, heiress, and socialite Doris Duke (1912-1993), Shangri La became the extension of the artwork and architectural collections inspired by her extensive travels to the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. From 1935-1992, Ms. Duke gathered over 4,500 objects and cultural resources.  Shangri La currently houses the largest private collection of Islamic Art in the world.  

Known as the “Richest Girl in the World,” Doris Duke first came to Hawai’i in 1935 as the final part of her honeymoon with husband James Cromwell.  They extended their visit by four months, as their love affair with Hawai’i grew and ended up building a permanent residence on O’ahu.  Situated on almost five acres of prime oceanfront property, the construction of Shangri La took two years (1936 – 1938) to complete and was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth.

Years later in 2014, the Mughai Suite, otherwise known as Ms. Duke’s bedroom and bathroom, was opened to the public for the first time.  Guests were able to see the intricate details such as the carved marble jail perforated screens, floor to ceiling windows, and the glass case holding priceless Indian jewelry with rubies and emeralds all on display.  The bathroom walls were made of carved inlaid marble panels embedded with semiprecious stones such as jade, carnelian, lapis lazuli, and other stones forming 26 floral shades. Shangri La also housed the only completed Molded Lusterware Mihrab, a Prayer Niche, in North America. After undergoing renovations, workers found a hidden state-of-the-art sound system in Ms. Duke’s suite that they believe was originally installed in 1939.

In addition to the Iranian art, Shangri La is filled with beautiful gilt and painted ceilings from Morocco, vibrant Indian textiles, pierced Spanish metalwork, and painted wooden Syrian interiors.  The outdoor landscape includes terraced water features, fishponds, waterfalls, and a tropical garden – all with the stunning backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.

Exhibits in the museum change yearly and they showcase different artworks from the total collection.  The current exhibit, #8x8_shangrila (on display now until March 9, 2021), features a fascinating showcase of eight visual artists and eight performing artists expressing their views of “concept of place.”  Their creative interpretations feature the stunning backdrop of various areas around Shangri La and can be viewed here.

Shangri La has been a special partner of Halekulani’s “For You, Everything” program for many years.  Have you visited Shangri La before? If so, share your photos and favorite memories of the museum on social media by tagging @HalekulaniHotel.