Embassies Open Doors for Passport DC

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Dancers at the Peruvian Embassy open house on May 5. Photo by Peggy Sands.

Dozens of people of all ages, some with festooned hats and painted faces, were doing the Macarena in front of the Philippine Embassy on Saturday, May 5.

Across the street, Peruvian descendants of Incas, dressed in bright-colored costumes with traditional flat-topped hats, performed complicated dances barefoot on their embassy’s front patio. The Andean quena music was almost drowned out, however, by the bongo drums and boisterous rhythms of dancers and singers from Caribbean island nations and crowds of onlookers next door.

It was the first open embassy day of “Passport DC,” a expanding annual event in celebration of International Cultural Awareness month in Washington. This year, 50 embassies participated in the May 5 “Around the World Embassy Tour” with open houses, exhibits, food and entertainment.

Nations spanning the alphabet from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe welcomed visitors into their usually secured embassies. A variety of displays showed off both their historical treasures and their 21st-century commercial enterprises.

At the Peruvian embassy, an exhibition of work by modern-day artists presented paintings and sculptures of city and village life. Upstairs, women’s fine fashions from Peruvian designers — including the world-famous Kaffe Fassett — were displayed and for sale. Women were cooing over his dresses, skirts and shawls of intricate subtle patterns and earth tones, woven and hand-knit of the softest alpaca wool. Embassy personnel answered questions in the ambassador’s elegant paneled office overlooking the corner of 17th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Downstairs, Peru’s unique tourist attractions were described, ranging from the mysterious Machu Picchu, deep in the Andes above the ancient Inca capitol of Cuzco, to sand-boarding on mountains of sand just north of Lima, Peru’s capital city and the former home of the Spanish viceroy.

Up and down the “Embassy Row” mansion precinct on Massachusetts Avenue — roughly between 34th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, large groups of families, millennials and seniors could be seen walking and using Metro buses and Lyft, which had established group pick-up points. They carried maps, bags and umbrellas (although it never rained) and snacked on unusual handheld — and often sticky-sweet — goodies from around the globe.

Next Saturday, May 12, the 28 member-nations of the European Union will host open houses at their embassies from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On the following Thursday, May 17, some 30 embassy chefs will present small plates of their country’s cuisine in an Embassy Chef Challenge. Guests will choose a “people’s favorite.” The chef event will take place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets are $50 to $175.

Other sponsored events to celebrate international culture in D.C. during the month of May include an Asian heritage festival on Saturday, May 19, featuring live musical performances and martial arts demonstrations. The festival will fill Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 6th Streets NW from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For details about the many art, music and cooking workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions and performances that will take place throughout the month District-wide, visit passportdc.oncell.com.

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