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Shangri La enriches the understanding of the art and design of the Islamic cultures in new and inspiring ways through exhibitions, digital and educational initiatives, public programs and guided tours, and community partnerships.

About Shangri La

Built in 1937 as the Honolulu home of Doris Duke (1912-1993), Shangri La was inspired by Duke’s extensive travels throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and reflects artistic and architectural collections and designs from these regions. The museum is a program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

History of Shangri La

Doris Duke and her new husband, James Cromwell, arrived in Honolulu in August 1935 as the final stop on their honeymoon tour; they soon extended their island stay by four months, longer than they had lingered in any other place on their itinerary. She described the islands as “…one of the most beautiful places in the world. It has a marvelous climate all year round, and I love the ocean, and I like the people.”  

Duke befriended the Kahanamoku family, a prominent Native Hawaiian family who formed the core of Duke’s social circle for many years and introduced her to Hawaiian life. Finding herself captivated by the cultures she experienced during her honeymoon and enamored with Hawai‘i, Duke designed a new home in collaboration with architect Marion Sims Wyeth that would evoke the beauty and character of these cultures. This home would become Shangri La. For nearly 60 years, Duke commissioned and collected major elements representing the Islamic history, art and culture of Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Central Asia, India and parts of Southeast Asia.

In 1965, Duke added a codicil to her will calling for the creation of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art so Shangri La could become a public institution “to promote the study and understanding of Middle Eastern Art and Culture.” After Duke’s death in 1993, Shangri La opened to the public in 2002.


The mission of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) is to promote the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures.

Foundation Overview

In accordance with Doris Duke’s (1912-1993) will, DDFIA was created in 1998 to promote the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures. DDFIA’s activities include:

Shangri La is within the ‘ili (subdivision) of Kapahulu in the ahupua‘a (land division) of Waikiki, in the moku (district) of Kona, on the mokupuni (island) of O‘ahu, in the paeʻāina of Hawaiʻi. It is with mindfulness and gratitude that the museum acknowledges this `āina (sacred land) as an indigenous space whose kānaka`āina (original people), are today identified as kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiians). Shangri La further recognizes that her majesty Queen Liliʻuokalani yielded the Hawaiian Kingdom and these territories, under duress and protest, to the United States to avoid the bloodshed of her people; peaceful and inspiring acts of kānaka maoli protest, assertions of sovereignty, and practices of cultural healing and rising continue today.

Learn about the history of the collection.

About the Collection

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