Going Global

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 2, 2008

Has the depressed dollar got you, well, depressed? Now that grand trips abroad have become a luxury only the truly wealthy can afford, it looks like you won't be jetting off to Europe, Asia or South America any time soon. Don't fret. The world is coming to you. Cheap. Starting Saturday, embassies across the city are throwing open their doors and inviting you to visit. It may have taken Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg 80 days to circumnavigate the globe in 1872, but you can do it in two weeks without having to go outside the Beltway or endure long delays at customs.

Passport DC, a joint effort of Cultural Tourism DC and the Delegation of the European Commission, showcases the many international cultures that make Washington one of the world's most important diplomatic centers.

When the European Union countries hosted the EU Open House for the first time last year, it was a rousing success. Germany, which had hoped to get 500 guests at its embassy, had nearly 5,000 drop in. Nearly 40,000 people overall visited EU embassies during the one-day open house. Keep those numbers in mind when planning your visits. Some of the more popular embassies are going to be crowded, so be patient.

Better yet, be adventurous. Don't stick only to the countries you know. It would be a shame not to pop by Kazahkstan's embassy to see the exquisite gold figurines on display for the first time in the United States, listen to Aqjarma, a folk group that has flown from western Kazahkstan for the occasion, and mingle with Ambassador Erlan Idrissov. Or to miss the Embassy of Pakistan, which is converting its courtyard into a traditional Pakistani marketplace with antique, modern and classically designed jewelry, a henna stall for temporary tattoos and food stations serving Pakistani cuisine, including chikkar chole (chick peas with onions and spices).

To help you avoid the "ugly American" label, we've listed ways to greet your hosts in their native language atop this and the following pages.

Passport DC runs Saturday through May 17. The European Union countries hold their open houses Saturday; other countries will open their embassies May 17. We've highlighted a few of the more worthwhile activities on the next page, but be sure to check out http://www.passportdc.org for a complete listing.

Bon voyage!

-- Kathy Orton

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