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Turkish Culture in D.C.: Local Turkish courses, Events, Cuisine

The tulip is the national flower of Turkey.

When it comes to discussions about Turkey, people often say, “Baklava!” or “I saw Turkish delights on Narnia!” and of course, “Istanbul, right?” Whether you just have a passing interest in Turkey, or are avidly passionate, you will find Turkish culture thriving here in D.C., which recently held its 15th annual Turkish festival.

Despite a relatively small Turkish student body, Georgetown University maintains an active Turkish Student Association which strives to connect with the university community, involving both Turkish and non-Turkish students. In the words of Zeynep Çelik, current president of GUTSA, “The larger Turkish community in D.C. is very welcoming and always eager to bring in students to introduce them to what they have to offer. I have been able to meet people who are just as passionate of Turkey as I am.” While there is a lot to celebrate, there is also a lot of confusion surrounding Turkey; the GUTSA president continued, “I have faced various challenges as some of the racial and political stigma surrounding Turkey have managed to spill into the Georgetown campus, yet none of this was enough to taint our ultimate representation of the historically rich culture and language of Turkey that Turks and non-Turks alike can appreciate.” While Washington D.C. is certainly a place where individuals can dive into the the tangled world of politics, what is also present here is an opportunity to dive into culture, particularly one that focuses on Turkey, and to bring people of many different nationalities together.

Just recently, D.C. hosted the 2017 Turkish Festival. The festival is certainly popular, attracting over 20,000 visitors each year, and admission is free. Attendees enjoyed live entertainment and music, Turkish coffee and tea, and vendors selling everything from Turkish oil-based “ebru” paintings to hand-worked jewelry. As is the case with most Turkish street venders, visitors should feel free to haggle, as it is a somewhat unofficial national sport in Turkey. Several organizations, including Bridge to Turkey, a group that focuses on providing opportunities to the most underrepresented segments of Turkish society, were present and glad to recruit volunteers.

The Turkish Festival shed light on many cultural activities, including film festivals and nights out. Just after the festival, on Sept. 28, The Goethe-Institut of D.C. hosted a showing of Kedi, a Turkish film based on the millions of cats that roam freely around Istanbul. Those wishing to follow similar events in the future can search “Turkish” on Eventbrite and are likely to find more activities than they have time for.

Of course, one of the best aspects of Turkish culture is the food, and D.C. has an incredible selection of Turkish eateries.

Just a 5-minute car ride away from Georgetown University is Cafe Divan (1834 Wisconsin Ave NW). The restaurant features a modern, intimate atmosphere that is casual to semi-formal, a large selection of alcohol, and authentic cuisine, including a great selection of desserts.

Ezmé, another Turkish restaurant, (2016 P St NW) is a 13-minute car ride away. It is known for its enormous wine selection, crowded late nights, and family tasting menu. The restaurant features small plates and is an ideal one-on-one dinner location.

Ankara (1320 19th St NW), named after Turkey’s capital city, is a 15-minute car ride away. The restaurant features patio seating, an upscale atmosphere, and sunday brunch.

Meze (2437 18th St NW) is about 20 minutes away, with a very cool semi-formal atmosphere, large alcohol selection, authentic cuisine, and a great selection of deserts.

Pidzza (2000 Hecht Avenue Northeast) is also about 20 minutes away from campus, with a grab-and-go style service. The Turkish pizzas it serves are customizable and delicious.

Washington, D.C. features many different cultures and ethnicities that are certainly worth checking out during a four year education at Georgetown. In particular, the active Turkish community in D.C., with regularly held courses, events, and dinner-socials, may be worth your time.

PC: erikwestrum / Flickr

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