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Over 5,000 Americans visit ‘Sri Lanka Embassy Open house’ in Washington D.C

The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. opened its doors for American visitors as part of Passport DC’s ‘Around the World Embassy Tour’ from 10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on 04 May 2024. The open house launched under a special event, “Passport DC” was organized by Events DC in partnership with over 55 foreign Missions based in Washington D.C. including the Embassy of Sri Lanka. It is a month-long festival in May that pays tribute to Washington D.C.’s thriving international diplomatic community and its lively and varied culture. As part of the festival, the first Saturday in May, the ‘International Cultural Awareness Month’ in Washington D.C. is devoted to Embassy open houses.

Under the advice and guidance of Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C.  Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Embassy made arrangements to promote Sri Lanka as an exciting tourist destination. Over 5,037 US nationals, as officially verified by the organizers of the Passport DC, visited the Embassy during the event which was a record despite bad weather.

As a unique feature of the event, a photographic exhibition of over 80 colorful photographs titled “Beauty of Sri Lanka” depicting the ancient cultural heritage, natural beauty with a special emphasis on wild life and the people of Sri Lanka, was presented by the “America – Sri Lanka Photographic Art Society Los Angeles” and captured the attention of all attendees.

The visitors were treated to traditional Sri Lankan hospitality and they were able to sample authentic Sri Lankan cuisine having witnessed live cooking demonstrations of preparing of kottu roti and hoppers. They were also able to taste a variety of finger foods from Sri Lanka. This was provided with the assistance of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. The Embassy also offered all visitors a freshly brewed cup of hot or iced Ceylon tea sponsored by “Basilur (Sri Lanka)” and “QTrade Teas & Herbs (California, USA)”.

Traditional Sri Lankan dances and drums showcased the vibrant diversity of Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage. The performances were at regular intervals by students from four local academies and was a key attraction that captivated guests throughout the day.

In line with the theme of “Passport DC 2024” which was Music diplomacy, the Embassy made special arrangements for the “Serendib” band led by Kutila Dias to entertain the crowd.  He was joined by saxophonist D. I. Senarathne who performed live music at regular intervals.

Another highlight organized by the Embassy to mark the occasion was a photo opportunity for visitors to  while clad in traditional Sri Lankan attire. Many American women queued up to drape themselves in Kandyan sarees, while the men tried on vivid batik sarongs and shirts. Sri Lankan traditional handicrafts, Ceylon spices and tea were on display, sponsored by Sri Lankan-American vendors.

An art exhibition “Sri Lanka, through Lens and Brush” was presented by two Sri Lankan-American  hearing impaired  artists Chetana Senadhira and Thushara T. Wijetilaka who shared their memories and experience of the beauty of Sri Lankan culture was another key feature.

The Embassy seized the opportunity to showcase the diverse tourist attractions of the country by exhibiting vibrant photographic sceneries as well as continually screening tourist-oriented videos. Two companies owned by Sri Lankan-Americans offered tourism packages joining the event, which caught the interest and attention of the visitors, thus promoting tourism to Sri Lanka.

To the delight of the visitors, the first 4,000 visitors were offered a complimentary pack of Ceylon tea by the Embassy that was generously sponsored by “Basilur (Sri Lanka)”. The objective was to promote ‘Ceylon tea’ among the visitors.

At the request of  the Embassy, voluntary support was extended by the members of six Sri Lankan community based Associations in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. The Sri Lanka Association of Washington DC, Sri Lanka Ranga Kala Kavaya, Kala Lanka Foundation, Ape Kattiya/American Sri Lankan Friendship Foundation, Bethesda Api and Hospital Services Council of Greater Washington Area helped in the smooth running of the event.

Organized annually, Passport DC showcases Washington D.C.’s embassies and cultural organizations with a wide range of performances, discussions, and exhibits. It has become very popular among Americans in the Greater Washington area (Washington D.C., State of Maryland and Northern Virginia, and surrounding metropolitan area), as it gives them a rare opportunity to enjoy many aspects of foreign cultures and traditions in a single day.

The Embassy of Sri Lanka participated in the Passport DC festival last year as well by opening up its doors to American visitors and had 3,750 guests coming to the Embassy and enjoying the beauty of Sri Lanka.

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