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Entry Courtyard

Visitors to Shangri La descend a long driveway shielded by dense foliage and first encounter the main house from within an open-air space known variously as the entry or banyan courtyard.

Syrian Room

The Syrian Room is one of Shangri La’s most cohesive spaces: a period room created for posterity, echoing those found in a number of other museums.

Damascus Room

The Damascus Room is a highlight of the Islamic art collection assembled by Doris Duke (1912–93) and is one of two Syrian interiors preserved at Shangri La.

Entry Courtyard

Visitors to Shangri La descend a long driveway shielded by dense foliage and first encounter the main house from within an open-air space known variously as the entry or banyan courtyard.

Foyer

The foyer is the first room that visitors enter in the main house, and it provides an introduction to Doris Duke (1912–93) as a collector and patron, to the visual language of Islamic art, and to the experience of Islamic art that Shangri La offers.

Central Courtyard

The main house at Shangri La revolves around a central courtyard, an architectural feature central to a number of buildings in the Islamic world.

Living Room

The living room preserves a number of important works of art from North Africa and Spain.

Mihrab Room

The Mihrab Room preserves a number of masterpieces in the DDFIA collection, particularly architectural tilework produced during the Ilkhanid period (1226–1353).

Dining Room

The dining room is Doris Duke’s (1912–93) interpretation of an Islamic-style tent.

Playhouse

Located on the west end of the property and adjacent to the ocean, the Playhouse at Shangri La is a poolside pavilion inspired by the Chehel Sutun (c. 1647–50) palace in Isfahan, the capital of Iran from 1598 to 1722. 

Mughal Garden

The Mughal Garden is Shangri La’s microcosm of the royal gardens found throughout the Indian subcontinent. 

Private Hall

The private hall is located off the central courtyard and terminates in the Mughal Suite.

Mughal Suite

The Mughal Suite is located at the end of a private hall extending from the central courtyard.

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Entry Courtyard. (Photo: Tim Street-Porter, 2011.)

Main Entrance. (Photo: Tim Street-Porter, 2011.)

Visitors to Shangri La descend a long driveway shielded by dense foliage and first encounter the main house from within an open-air space known variously as the entry or banyan courtyard (the latter in homage to a large banyan tree that shades the paved space). The south (oceanside) and west (Diamond Head) sides of the courtyard are punctuated by two large whitewashed façades, each with a similar front door. The low-lying façade on the south leads into the foyer of the main house, while the taller example on the west leads into the Mughal Garden, which stretches from east to west along an upper terrace. The rest of the 4.9-acre property is steadily terraced downward, and the visitors’ experience is marked by increased proximity to the ocean.

The simplicity of the main house’s façade may be surprising. There are, however, signs that one is about to enter a property that is partially inspired by Islamic architecture and that preserves a large collection of Islamic art. Like façades found in the maze-like old cities (medinas) of the Arab world, Shangri La’s façade is plain, unassuming and betrays little of what lies within, thus ensuring privacy and protection from the bustling world beyond. For Doris Duke (1912–93), this was a top priority.

Although the entry courtyard preserves just a few examples of Islamic art, they are nonetheless significant. The rooftop of the main façade is sheathed in green roof tiles custom-made for Shangri La in Rabat, Morocco, in 1937. The result is a combination of a whitewashed façade and green tiles that echoes architecture throughout Morocco, which Duke visited with her husband James Cromwell in 1937. The front door (64.1b), made in Egypt in c. 1900 and acquired in 1938, presents the visitor’s first close inspection of Islamic art. Its geometric patterns, scrolling arabesques, and calligraphy exemplify the type of art preserved in the house. The calligraphy is in fact drawn from different verses in the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book. The central inscription—located in a small roundel—features the opening phrase of the Qur’an and all but one of its ensuing chapters (surahs): “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful” (bismillah al-rahman al-rahim). The calligraphy above further welcomes one into Paradise (Qur’an 15:46).

The door leading to the Mughal Garden (64.96a-d) is similar to the one leading into the main house and includes, among other verses, the same welcoming phrase, “Enter them in health, secure” (Qur’an 15:46). During Duke’s lifetime, the whitewashed surface above was embellished with a nineteenth-century Qajar Iranian tile spandrel, which has since been deinstalled for conservation purposes.

Historical Images

Entrance elevation, house for Mr. & Mrs. James Cromwell Honolulu T. H., c. 1936. Wyeth & King, Architects. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. The entry courtyard, with its newly transplanted Chinese banyan tree, as of November 21, 1937. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Doris Duke and Olympic swimmer Sam Kahanamoku at the entrance to Shangri La, 1938–39. Doris Duke Photograph Collection, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Entry courtyard, January 20, 1939. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. In 1946, the bamboo gate that separated the entry courtyard from the Mughal Garden was replaced by this wall. Doris Duke Photograph Collection, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. The entrance to the Mughal Garden, with the tile spandrel still installed, 2006. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo: David Franzen, 2006.)
Damascus Room
Private Hall
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