Tens of thousands of people gathered on Sunday in Washington D.C. for an annual event that offered an insight into Turkish culture, food and music. The event at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue started with live performances of Turkish music and folk dance. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mert Arikan, a board member of the organizers American Turkish Association of Washington D.C. (ATA-DC), said the festival aims to promote Turkish culture in the city.
“Actually, we, as ATA-DC, aim to make Turkish society familiar among the American society," said Arikan.
“The festival offers visitors folk dances, musical performances, arts and crafts activities, besides food, desserts, and Turkish coffee,” he added.
Coffee vendors also offered coffee fortune telling, a cultural practice in Turkey dating back to the 18th century. The fortune teller interprets the patterns in the coffee grounds left on both the cup and saucer.
Ecem Unal, 21, a student at University of Maryland, expressed her joy at being part of the festival likening it to a “birthday”.
“I am super happy to be here to see my culture in D.C. and see all the people enjoying and promoting my culture. It feels like a birthday to me,” said Unal.
“I loved the shows and food. It is great to have this in D.C.,” said Unal, praising ATA-DC for doing a “great job”.
“Every year, they work to make the festival better and I am happy about that,” she added.
Dishes served at the festivals included mouth-watering kebabs, pide -- a flatbread topped with meat, cheese or vegetables, and doner -- thin shavings of rotisserie meat or chicken served with bread, vegetable and sauce.
A first-time visitor, Sarah Gray told Anadolu Agency that she was “blown away by the representation” from different regions in Turkey.
“It is not just focused on one aspect, it is focused on different cultures, food, different music and performances,” said the 19-year-old. “I am definitely coming again.”
The festival was the closing event of the 8th Annual Turkish Heritage Month held throughout September.