Passport D.C. offers cultural opportunity

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The Embassy of Indonesia is just one of the many embassies taking part in Passport D.C.

By Jordan Janis, Features Editor

Throughout the month of May, 70 embassies and other cultural organizations will host Passport D.C., a collection of cultural events.

Passport D.C., created in May 2008 by nonprofit group Cultural Tourism D.C., celebrates and promotes the diverse culture of the nation’s capital, in concurrence with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s proclamation of May as International Cultural Awareness Month.

“D.C. is a wonderful resource for international culture, with its high concentration of embassies and cultural centers,” Cultural Tourism D.C. development fellow Liane Toohey said.  “Passport D.C. was created as a way to both celebrate the diverse cultures represented therein and also make them accessible to the public.”

According to Toohey, visitors can experience the most culture by participating in any of Passport D.C.’s three signature events: the Around the World Embassy Tour, the Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies’ (EU) Open House or the National Asian Heritage Festival: Fiesta Asia Street Fair, held the first three Saturdays in May, respectively.

The Around the World Embassy Tour, which begins at 10 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. May 4, allows tourists to travel around the world while staying within the same city.  Visitors have the opportunity to walk through the mansions of more than 40 embassies representing six continents, while sampling their food, artwork, dance and music.

According to Toohey, the Around the World Embassy Tour attracts over 25,000 people.

The Shortcut to Europe: EU Embassies’ Open House, will be held May 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and celebrates European heritage during Europe Week.   This casual family program offers a unique look inside the 27 EU Member States’ and incoming member Croatia’s embassies, as well as experiences of each country’s traditional heritage.

According to junior Mara Zankman, who attended Passport D.C. last year, she signed a banner for the Queen in honor of the diamond jubilee and walked through the gardens at the Embassy of the United Kingdom.

The Embassy of the United Kingdom will showcase the Ambassador’s residence and gardens, as well as British business and trade; it will also hold creative and cultural activities.  The Embassies of France and Germany will have a joint celebration in honor of the 50-year anniversary of their peace treaty and have German and French food, drinks, face painting, pictures, music and language lessons.

According to the EU Open House website, the EU will also hold a tour of its headquarters in which visitors can learn about the workings of the EU, take a quiz, win prizes and enjoy other activities including a photo booth and a Kids Corner.

As a part of the month-long National Asian Heritage Festival, the Fiesta Asia Street Fair, which promotes Asian art and culture through activities and performances, will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 18.

Hosted by the Asia Heritage Foundation (AHF) since 2006, the street fair has included more than 800 performers and participants in the past with vendors, food, interactive displays, martial arts demonstrations, a talent show and a cooking demonstration.

According to the AHF website, the Fiesta Asia Street Fair typically attracts over 20,000 visitors.

Each of these free activities do not require reservations, provide street parking, shuttle buses and easy access to public transportation.  They are open to all ages, but it is important to bring an ID in order to enter the embassies.

“The event is interesting to everybody, not only students, because each country shows its own culture in many ways,” Argentinian Embassy minister Gustavo Torres said.