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Shangri La: Islamic Art Center

An heiress's former Honolulu hideaway showcases Islamic treasures.

tile work at Doris Duke's Shangri La in Honolulu, image
Photo caption
The Islamic tile work inside Shangri La is a feast of geometry.


Amid the venerable and exotic works in Shangri La, the former Honolulu home of heiress Doris Duke, the most stunning sight is a 1930s living-room sofa disdainfully turning its back on the spectacular view of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Duke evidently preferred to focus on the room's vast wealth of Islamic treasures, among them 16th-century Spanish ceramic tiles with brilliant lusterware glazes and a pair of 19thcentury doors from Iran inlaid with brass, ivory, wood, and bone.

The showpiece of the home Duke herself dubbed Shangri La is a cobaltblue and turquoise ceramic mihrab, or prayer niche, measuring 12.6 feet tall by 7.5 feet wide, made in Persia in the 13th century. The collection boasts 2,500 pieces, including furniture, metalwork, textiles, paintings, pottery, and an entire sitting room brought from Syria.

Groups of 25 visit the site three times daily Wednesday through Saturday. Tours ($25) start with a video at the Honolulu Museum of Art and include rides to and from Shangri La. Advance reservations are strongly recommended. (808) 532-3853,

Photography courtesy of Tim Street-Porter, 2011


This article was first published in November 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.