Shangri La entry

Shangri La

Honolulu has a place to see Islamic art. We enjoyed the Moorish palaces of the Alhambra and Alcazar in April, so we visited Shangri La. Unlike the former Moorish palaces, Shangri La has the original furnishings.

Heiress Doris Duke, whose father gave an endowment that caused Duke University to be named for his family, built a home in Honolulu and furnished it with Islamic art for over 50 years. Today people can tour Shangri La through the Honolulu Museum of Art.

The home has a typically plain Islamic exterior — a white wall and a wooden door — that reveals little about the interior.

Shangri La entry
Shangri La entry

The door has Islamic design elements: calligraphy, arabesque, and geometry. The calligraphy across the top of the door says “Enter herein in peace and security”. The center is an arabesque, a repeated design based on vines or flowers. Repeated six-pointed stars form the geometric border of the door.

Shangri La front door
Shangri La front door

They don’t permit photography inside, but the Shangri La website has an excellent virtual tour with photos.

The mihrab is my favorite: a beautiful tile wall decorated with calligraphy. The mihrab was originally part of a mosque, showing Muslims which way to face during prayer, in order to face Mecca.

The Damascus Room has wood paneling from the reception room of a home in Damascus, Syria. Duke placed her order, and her agent looked until he found a suitable room that the owners would sell.

Shangri La is located on Black Point, a small peninsula behind Diamond Head. The 5-acre grounds have a spectacular view of the ocean and Diamond Head.

Diamond Head from Shangri La
Diamond Head from Shangri La

We enjoyed Shangri La. Our guide was excellent. Purchase tickets online a week in advance. As a bonus, we saw photos of Hawaii by Ansel Adams and Imogene Cunningham at the Honolulu Museum of Art.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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