By Ben Kangwa
All in a one day tour, Embassies from more than seventy (70) countries from Africa, Oceania, the Middle East and the Americas, participated in the sixth annual cultural tourism event dubbed “Passport DC – Around the World Embassy Tour” in Washington DC on 4th May, 2013.
Passport DC is based on the European Union’s Open House, which was first held by the EU member states’ embassies in 2007 and then absorbed into Passport DC later in 2008. The first two years, Passport DC was held in the first two weeks of May with three events that attracted twenty eight (28) embassies. Three years ago, in 2010, it expanded to be a month long and took on more than one hundred (100) smaller events.
This year, from Africa, Zambia was joined by Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa
Passport DC is an international event that showcases Embassies based in Washington DC. The Embassies open their houses to a wide range of tourism attractions such as tourism, culture, art, music, textiles, jewelry.
Linda Harper the Executive Director – Cultural Tourism DC, which sponsors Passport DC adds, “In DC, we can easily identify connections to even the remote places simply by passing a building with a foreign flag in front. Passport DC strengthens those connections by providing opportunities to interact with people from around the world and by starting a global conversation that fosters curiosity about other places”.
One of the main objectives of any diplomatic mission is to promote its country given any little opportunity and Passport DC proved to be a huge opportunity. For that reason, the Zambian Embassy in Washington DC played perfect cultural diplomacy.
Said First Secretary (Immigration), Ms Beatrice Mwendela, “ We want to promote our country to visitors, people who live in DC, those visiting DC so they can know who we are, where Zambia is and what our country can offer in tourism and culture”.
Delicious, sumptuous ethnic or traditional food was offered for free at many of the Embassies and Zambia in particular. The long line that formed outside the Embassy was sign of appreciation of what Zambia offered by attendees that have been part of Passport DC since its inception.
As the guests entered the Embassy door, they were greeted at a front desk (by two staffers) whose backdrop was a huge Zambia Tourism Billboard depicting the colorful Victoria Falls with the inscription on top ‘Zambia, Let’s Explore’ and right at the bottom with a signage – ‘The tourism icon of the world’
As the ladies handed over the tourism brochures, the introductory phrase went something like this, “Welcome to Zambia and enjoy an exciting opportunity to sample our culture, tourism, exotic cuisine, images and music as we take you on an unforgettable tour.”
The visitors were then led to the adjacent board-room whose long table had been totally transformed into a crafts attraction with a wide range of handicrafts, curios and Zambian works of arts depicting traditional carvings of animals, masks, drums, baskets, decorated drums, spoons and stools.
As the visitors admired the crafts and arts, both diplomatic and local staff were at hand to answer questions or give guidance about Zambia, making the whole one time visit memorable. What made it more enjoyable was the fact that an overhead white screen had been positioned at the end of the hall and a laptop had been connected to the overhead projector which then beamed a ‘looped’ five minute ZTB tourism DVD to the excitement of the visitors.
The DVD mini-documentary captures traditional ceremonies, wild life, Zambia’s waterfalls, lakes, adventure activities such as canoe safaris, white water rafting and bungi jumping all in five minutes and four seconds.
As the visitors ‘snaked’ their way on the long table full of crafts and curios to the back of the hall into the library where the food station was positioned, there was a sweet aroma of tasty , sumptuous Zambian dishes.
The menu was typical Zambian. It consisted the following:
· Ifinkubala (caterpillars)
· Vitumbuwa (fritters)
· Vingobe(dry corn) mixed with groundnuts, peanut butter and some just plainly boiled.
· Tute(boiled cassava)
· Sweet potatoes as in boiled, baked and cooked in peanut butter sauce
· Nsahaba zo kazinga (peanuts fried without oil)
· Ichiwaya or Viwaya (Dry fried corn without oil)
· Inondo (chicken gizzards)
· Mponda (boiled pumpkin)
· Kapenta (small fried fish)
· Chicken wings (baked)
· Meat balls
With such delicious food, it was no wonder that the long que kept forming from opening time at ten hours in the morning to closing time at sixteen hours. The tourism display, the music and the food paid off with 3, 198 guests having passed through the Zambia Embassy. The Embassy had reached out to the Washington metro population and beyond.
The writer is Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC