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Shangri La

Updated on February 26, 2014
Shangri Laʻs play house is a guest house and event venue.
Shangri Laʻs play house is a guest house and event venue. | Source

Shangri La, a fictional utopia described in James Hiltonʻs 1933 novel Lost Horizon, is also a real place. Tobacco heiress Doris Duke spent 60 years collecting and assembling Islamic art into her 5 acre estate, creating one of the most magnificent and comprehensive collections in the world. Words canʻt describe Dukeʻs Shangri La - a smorgasboard of centuries old Middle Eastern mosaics, Moroccan woodwork, Indian tapestries and Persian poetry. The tiered estate on Diamond Headʻs eastern side has a panoramic pacific vista and Taj Mahal like garden, among many other visually stunning features. Shangri La tours are done exclusively through Honolulu Museum of Arts.

Entry to Shangri Laʻs art extravaganza is through a modest doorway, as is the custom in Middle Eastern countries.
Entry to Shangri Laʻs art extravaganza is through a modest doorway, as is the custom in Middle Eastern countries. | Source
Taking photos inside Shangri La is prohibited. The front foyer features Moroccan woodwork, backlit stained glass windows, and pierced metal Middle Eastern lamps to name a few.
Taking photos inside Shangri La is prohibited. The front foyer features Moroccan woodwork, backlit stained glass windows, and pierced metal Middle Eastern lamps to name a few. | Source

Guided Tours

Shangri Laʻs guided tours cost $25 a ticket. To reserve tickets call 1-866-DUKE TIX toll free. Locals can call 532-DUKE and get a kamaʻaina rate of $20. Tours last 2 1/2 hours with 1 1/2 hour on site and are not appropriate for children under 12. Tours are available Wednesday through Saturday with the exception of: the month of September, New Years Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Tours are available at 9:00, 10:00 and 1:30 time slots. Making reservations a month in advance is recommended as this popular tour has limited space.

A 10 minute video - Creating Shangri La is featured at Honolulu Academy of Artsʻ Islamic Gallery. Watching the video prior to the tour is strongly recommended. At the Academy you are given a papaya or lavender colored "Shangri La Tour Visitor" badge then transported by shuttle bus to Dukeʻs estate. At Shangri La visitors are divided into two groups via their papaya or lavender tags. Each group gets a tour guide. About a dozen of us donned our lavender tags and met our guide Kelly at Shangri Laʻs front entrance.

Carved calligraphy graces a wooden door guarded by two stone camels. Kelly translates some persian script which she says heads every book in the Quran. In the name of God, the merciful and compassionate. The outside of Shangri La is white and unadorned, a Middle Eastern tradition according to Kelly.

"This door," says Kelly. "Is the one family and friends used. Guests stayed at the play house."

Kelly opens the door . . . we step inside . . . our art adventure begins.

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Shangri La Guided Tour

Considerations

  • The 1:30 pm tour was hot . . . Shangri Laʻs only air conditioner is the ocean breeze. The 9:00 and 10:00 am tours are likely much cooler. A free mosaic artsy paper fan is given to each visitor. I used mine a lot.
  • You are encouraged to leave heavy bags and items in the entryway, where they are stored for your retrieval at tourʻs end.
  • Sitting is encouraged in special locations throughout the tour, but there is still a lot of standing around. Comfortable shoes are a must.
  • Drink lots of water before you go. No liquids are allowed inside. A water dispenser with paper cups is located on the lanai, where you can drink mid tour.
  • While photos are prohibited inside Shangri La, ample camera opportunities occur on the lawn and in the garden.

This ceramic tile mosaic on Shangri Laʻs lanai . . . is a just a small taste of the lavish art inside.
This ceramic tile mosaic on Shangri Laʻs lanai . . . is a just a small taste of the lavish art inside. | Source

History

Doris Duke became the worldʻs richest little girl when her father James B. Duke passed away in 1925. She was 12 years old. At 22 she married politician James Cromwell. Their six month honeymoon through the Middle East and India was the beginning of Dukeʻs lifelong love affair with islamic art and architecture. Hawaii was the last stop of their Honeymoon on August 4, 1935. Introvert Doris Duke was an unwilling celebrity, and she found Waikiki ʻs casual atmosphere and privacy refreshing. She was a natural athlete and passionate swimmer. She soon made friends with brothers and beach boys Duke and Sam Kohanamoku, who taught her to surf. She enjoyed her Hawaii lifestyle so much that she lengthened her stay to four months. She bought a five acre estate at the foot of Diamond Head. Duke hired American Architect Marion Sims Wyeth and provided sketches and photographs of Islamic architectural features to incorporate into Shangri Laʻs design. Dukeʻs marriage to Cromwell would end in 1940, but she would return again and again to Shangri La, collecting and commissioning islamic masterpieces.

Shangri Laʻs abandoned boat harbor has become a water playground for locals.
Shangri Laʻs abandoned boat harbor has become a water playground for locals. | Source
Public shoreline access is permitted up tp the waterʻs edge of Dukeʻs estate.
Public shoreline access is permitted up tp the waterʻs edge of Dukeʻs estate. | Source

Shoreline Access

At Shangri Laʻs lanai we are permitted to take pictures. Looking down from the lanai I see youngsters frolicking in the ocean, diving off a rock wall, and picnicking on the shoreline below. In 1937, Duke had the rocks dredged to create a private boat dock for her husbandʻs yacht. The abandoned harbor has become a favorite water playground for locals.

Under Hawaii law, public access is permitted to all shorelines. In their book Oahu beach Access: A Guide to Oahuʻs Beaches through the Public Rights of way, Katherine Garner and Carol Kettner describe public access no. 3, Kaalawai Beach at Kulamanu Place, as well as 88 other public rights of way to Oahu beaches. From the Kulamanu right of way you must climb over rocks and boulders amongst crashing waves to get to the Duke estate shoreline. Do so at your own risk.

A
Shangrila, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art:
Doris Duke Foundation For Islamic Art, 4055 Papu Cir, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA

get directions

Shangrila

B
200 Kulamanu Place:
200 Kulamanu Pl, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA

get directions

Public right of way to Kaalawai Beach

C
Honolulu Art Academy:
Honolulu Museum of Art, 900 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA

get directions

Honolulu Art Academy

Comments

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    • YogaKat profile imageAUTHOR

      YogaKat 

      4 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      Thanks for stopping by Easy Exercise - the inside has to be seen as no outside photos are allowed. Like most masterpieces - words can't do it justice - so you'll just have to visit Oahu.

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 

      4 years ago from United States

      Yoga Kat,

      My husband and I were just talking about this name and had no idea. Now we have a reason to visit Hawaii. I love history - I feel there is so much we can learn. The richest little girl in the 1920's - fascinating - and she choose to spend her money traveling and then creating her own world - I admire that. I would like to see more of the inside treasures - perhaps another hub? Wonderful hub! Thank you!

    • YogaKat profile imageAUTHOR

      YogaKat 

      5 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      Thanks for your visit and kind comments Stessily. You are right about Dorisʻ sadness. In her later years she trusted the wrong people. In her younger days she did as she pleased: surfing, traveling and tempestuous love affairs. She inherited her fatherʻs genius with money and her profitable foundation is one of the few where the docents are paid for their tours. No doubt her masterpiece will be lucrative through the years.

    • profile image

      stessily 

      5 years ago

      YogaKat, Your love of and appreciation for this jewelled isle are apparent and palpable through your words and photos.

      It's always amazing to me to come across yet another legacy of beauty which is bequeathed by some of the saddest people. It seems to be quite an accomplishment to create such a haven that transcends the boundaries of Doris' own life.

      Your tips are well placed and helpful, such as concerning the 1:30pm tour, the hottest of the 3 tour times: "A free mosaic artsy paper fan is given to each visitor. I used mine a lot."

      This tour felt like a real journey: thank you!

      Superb presentation!

      Kind regards, Stessily

    • YogaKat profile imageAUTHOR

      YogaKat 

      5 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      Sgbrown,

      I loved this tour. Donʻt forget to call a month in advance (at least) to get tickets. Thanks for your comments.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      What a beautiful place! I am still waiting to go on a trip to Hawaii. This would be a wonderful place to visit. I would love to see all the art and carvings. You did a great job here! Voted up, interesting and sharing! :)

    • YogaKat profile imageAUTHOR

      YogaKat 

      5 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      Thanks kikalina :)

    • kikalina profile image

      kikalina 

      5 years ago from Europe

      Excellent hub with great pics :) Sharing

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