Doris Duke's Shangri La, one of Oahu's most impressive artistic and architectural attractions, has added a long-anticipated stop to its already stellar residential tour offering: access to the famous heiress' Mughal bedroom suite.
"It's a significant part of her collection," Deborah Pope, Shangri La's executive director, said of the house's recently renovated master bedroom and bathroom. "And it's a part of the Islamic world we haven't been able to previously represent and display at Shangri La, so it really rounds out people's experience."
The only child of James Buchanan Duke, a founder of the American Tobacco Co. and Duke Energy Co., Doris Duke was born in 1912 and first visited Oahu during her honeymoon in 1935, following a whirlwind tour around the world and stops in several Muslim countries. Captivated by the Islamic artwork and architecture she saw during the voyage, Duke built a home near Diamond Head in Honolulu that reflected the beauty and artistry she had encountered.
"I think it's a big surprise to many people," Pope said of the home, which features gorgeous views of Oahu's southern coast. "If you haven't heard or read about Shangri La before a visit, you would probably say, 'What? Islamic art in Hawaii?' But it's a stunning estate."
Duke spent the rest of her life filling the 14,000-square-foot residence with Islamic artwork, assembling approximately 2,500 objects from countries such as Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Syria and Iran.
Visitors will find a vibrant array of colored glass; ceramics, some dating back as far as the 12th century, along with many textiles; ornate woodwork and furniture; and a collection of storage vessels in the living room from eighth century Iran. Shangri La's masterpiece, however, is a mihrab, or traditional prayer niche indicating the direction to Mecca, that was once part of a 13th century Persian shrine.
Meanwhile, the recently completed renovation of Duke's master bedroom and bathroom, a suite she commissioned in Delhi after visiting the Taj Mahal during her honeymoon, offers visitors access to one of Shangri La's final secrets along with an up-close look at some of Duke's jewelry, a range of Islamic works she collected over her lifetime in India, and even a little color film exhibition of a young Duke enjoying a sunny day at her Oahu home.
"It's the last remaining artistically significant part of the house," Pope said, noting that most of the rooms' marble work was completed in the 1930s by Indian artisans. "With the addition of the Mughal suite to the tour, people really have almost total access."
Two-and-a-half-hour tours of Shangri La are offered Wednesdays through Saturdays at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., beginning first at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Admission is $25, and tours depart the downtown museum onboard a motorcoach for the 15-minute drive to Shangri La.