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Spotlight: Thousands tour DC embassies during open house

Spotlight: Thousands tour DC embassies during open house
Visitors enter the Japanese Embassy during the Around the World Embassy Tour, May 4, 2024.

Visitors stamped souvenir passports as they walked around Washington, D.C., during Passport DC’s “Around the World Embassy Tour” event on May 4, in which more than 50 embassies, representing countries from Armenia in West Asia to Zambia in southern Africa, took part.

The aromas of different cuisines filled the air in parts of the U.S. capital, more than they usually do, and D.C. residents and visitors took part in games, and enjoyed art exhibits and musical and dance performances at participating embassies.

“We (the embassies) look forward to Passport DC AWET (Around the World Embassy Tour) every year,” Joan Brammer, the public affairs and culture attaché at the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, said in a statement released by EventsDC.

“It is the one day when we can open our doors to the city and share our culture with residents and visitors from around the world,” said Brammer, who is also the president of the Washington Educational and Cultural Attaché Association.

Visitors pose with a giant Giant Panda at the Chinese embassy during the Around the World Embassy Tour on May 4, 2024. (Embassy of China)

With each embassy organizing its own events, guests were able to learn about the culture of distant countries and products representative of different cultures, all within a few D.C. blocks.

Visitors to the Chinese embassy posed for pictures with a giant Giant Panda, and at the embassy of the United Kingdom, cultural icon Paddington Bear was on hand, offering guests  a cup of tea in true British fashion. Around 4,500 people visited the UK embassy during the day-long AWET event, staff said.

Paddington Bear, one of the UK’s most beloved fictional characters, greets visitors during the UK embassy’s open house at a tea tasting stand. (UK Embassy)

The embassies taking part also proposed tourism options in the hope of boosting the number of visitors to less-explored destinations such as Gabon, Guyana and Rwanda, and better known ones such as Switzerland, Japan and Costa Rica.

Outside the Israeli Embassy, which was not holding an open house, an unofficial Palestinian pop-up antiwar protest drew crowds. Protesters got their souvenir passports stamped, signed a large banner in support of the Palestinian people, and sampled makloubeh – a rice dish made with layers of vegetables, meat, and a spicy broth. The dish, known as makloubeh in Arabic, is served upside-down.

Participants in the Around the World Embassy Tour sign a banner showing support for Palesstinians, outside the Israeli embassy, May 4, 2024. Israel did not take part in the day of embassy open houses.

The open house, which featured only non-European Union countries, is part of EventsDC’s Passport DC program, which will continue to offer cultural events in D.C. throughout the month of May.

EU embassies are set to host an open house on May 11, and the following weekend, Fiesta Asia will bring street fair ambiance and hundreds of performers to the U.S. capital.

All events in the Passport DC program are free of charge.

Stella Canino-Quinones