Shangri-La ~ Doris Duke an American heiress


Shangri-La: A distant and secluded hideaway, usually of great beauty and peacefulness.

At the young age of 12, Doris Duke became the richest girl in the world when her father, James Buchanan Duke magnate behind a tobacoo and energy empire and benefactor of Duke University, died. In 1935, returning from a honeymoon through the Islamic world, Doris Duke stopped over in Hawaii and fell in love with the people, the climate, surfing and the Hawaiian way of life. She was captivated by the beauty, the weather and the privacy Hawaii offered her from the public eye and the New York social scene.

Shangri La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and legendary tobacco heiress Doris Duke (1912–1993) had found hers in Hawaii, so she built a home there, and named it Shangri La, after the fictitious place in James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon.


Doris Duke’s Shangri La mansion is near Diamond Head just outside Honolulu is now owned by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

She was also a major collector of Islamic art, assembling a collection of more than 2,500 pieces and exhibiting it throughout her Honolulu home Shangri La—a sustained effort of nearly 60 years.

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Doris Duke at Shangri La in 1966, photographed by Horst for Vogue.