Doris Duke

Twelve years old and $80 million to burn. No, it’s not another episode of MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen,” but rather the true headlines from 1925 concerning Doris Duke, heiress to the American Tobacco Company fortune. Armed with her father’s deathbed advice (“trust no one”) and an unfathomable sum of money (over $1 billion in today’s terms), Little Doris set off to discover the world.

Although she encountered some pitfalls and unscrupulous types along the way, Doris blossomed into a woman of style and grace, a committed philanthropist and a keen student of the decorative arts. Through her frequent globetrotting, she developed an appreciation for foreign cultures and an unerring eye for the best in art, fashion and design. Although she had numerous homes that showcased this passion, the one that stands out among all the rest is her Hawaiian masterpiece, Shangri-la.


For her 1935 honeymoon with hubby #1, James Cromwell, Doris visited the Middle East and became entranced with Islamic art. Upon returning to the States, she decided to build a home inspired by the finest architecture witnessed on her travels. On an incredible stretch of Oahu’s coastline, she set about building Shangri-La, her very own earthly paradise, which included grounds modeled after Pakistan’s Shalimar Gardens and a guest house inspired by the Chihul Sutun in Iran. Her love affair with Islamic art lasted her entire lifetime during which she amassed one of the world’s most important collections. Today, you can grab a glimpse into the world of Doris Duke and her artistic passions by visiting Shangri-la – now open to the public as the Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures. As Salamu Alaykum, Doris.

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