Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Letters from Egypt: My Visa Update

I proceeded down to hell again, aka Tahrir Square, to renew my visa. Normally when renewing your visa, your passport is taken the same day and you’re told to return after 2 pm to pick it up. Things were a bit different this time around.

The first day I went, the same woman that I’ve been dealing with for the past three years took my paperwork but returned my passport. I thought it was weird and mentioned it to my colleague, but what can we do?

The next day I entered into the Mogamma and go to window 38 where my colleague was rudely told that I was supposed to have a number written in my passport. Back to the initial window with the same familiar face to ask for the number to which she inquired, “Are you sure I was the one [who helped you yesterday]?” Yes lady, I can never forget that face caked in whiter than white make-up and those very tan hands.

20 minutes later…

Return to window 38 for rude woman to take the passport and say, “Come after two hours” (basically, come after 2 pm). Why is it so different now than usual? I bet you’re thinking it’s because the officials need to look over the paperwork more than pre-revolution. The real reason is because the women had not even given the proper authorities all the visa applications from the day before. I guess they were too busy sharing jokes with colleagues, reading the newspaper and/or drinking tea.

Flashback to last time I went for my visa renewal, I showed up at the Mogamma at about 10:15 am. The same white make-up/brown hands woman sat behind the glass and told me to wait. Why? So she could finish her breakfast. And there I stood for 15 minutes watching her gobble gobble, slurp slurp.

Two hours later…

The lovely security checkpoints into Tahrir require ID. What do you do if your passport is in the Mogamma? I’m not even going to get into how long it took me to explain why I had no passport.

Back to window 38. No one behind the glass – undoubtedly it was one of their many breaks… I sit down while my colleague waits in the long line and I see something I’ve NEVER seen in my years living here.

In the Lost Passport line, filled with Egyptians and other nationalities, one bearded Egyptian man that looked to be holding a US passport began shouting in Arabic which soon escalated. This 30-something man was single-handedly trying to organize a line. A LINE!!! This concept evades most Egyptians so to see someone trying to organize such a thing was shocking. Naturally the ONLY person who refused to get into the mostly non-Egyptian line was…wait for it…AN EGYPTIAN! This 50-year old man began arguing back saying: “Who are you to tell me what to do?” While the 30-something tried to explain that things would go quicker if a line was created. Then a 20-something came and said that people like the 50-year old will never understand and it is pointless to continue trying.

I’m sick of that being used as an excuse for this kind of inconsiderate behavior. This older man knew exactly what he was doing, but could care less about anything other than himself.

And although the line was only halfway formed, it made me think that maybe, just maybe, there were other Egyptians like this man. After my passport was finally returned, I stopped and told the line organizer that I appreciated his effort. It might sound silly to those of you that don’t live here, but for those of you that do, I’m sure you understand.

And after all of that with a lot of hassle in between (too cumbersome to write in detail) my visa was approved, and I headed off to the subway to return to Maadi.

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