6 more months fi Misr (Cairo)

“Display patience and good humor when dealing the Mugamma;” My Rough Guide instructs. “Only stage a tantrum or nervous breakdown as a last resort.”
Mugamma is the Arabic word for ??
In Egypt it’s the place where all types of citizen-government and government-alien paperwork takes place.

The day I could no longer postpone renewing my visa was not marked on my calender with hearts and stars.

One of the translators in the RLAP office copied the page with my picture and entry visa into Egypt.
They’ll ask for these, he told me.
I wondered at his expertise.
We [Iraqis] have to do this all the time.

The book said stamps for the visa would cost 8LE but made no mention of the visa itself.
Chantelle a young French woman in my office who’s been here around two years said the first time she renewed her visa it cost 3LE, the second 71LE.

This did not surprise any of us. Maybe there’s a legitimate system, maybe there is not. After all, we are in Egypt.

That may sound critical or patronizing.
It’s actually rather affectionate.
Things have a special way of happening in Egypt.
People are always late, Bowabs always want to carry your groceries, guys always want to open doors, people constantly push each other in the streets and cut each other in lines, foreigners usually play slightly higher for commodities on the street, cars always beep a chorus and taxi drivers yell and stop when you’re walking in the opposite direction.

The sooner you make peace with it the happier you’ll be.

Armed with the copies of my visas, a passport-sized photo, my passport and enough money to cover the unexpected, I walked the 10 minutes from my apartment to Tahrir.
I expected a tiresome and wasted morning.

Most metal detectors do not work in Egypt (they beep incessantly and security guards wave everyone through. Whether this one did or not, I cannot say, but the scanner beside it at least did.
They took my camera out of my bag attached a plastic “9” with a rubber band and gave me another “9.”
Being the untrusting American I am, it was not an easy parting.
The guy who took my camera at least pointed me in the right direction, up a set of stairs where others were also hurrying.
Walking up the two flights it struck me how dark it was.
It these little things, i.e. Dark stairs in a capitol government building which remind me I’m really not in the U.S. anymore.
.
At the top of the stairs I followed the signs to window 38.
There was no line. No pushing and shoving for stamps as sources had described.
“Gedeed visa?” (New visa?) I asked the woman.
Go to window #12 down there, she instructed me.

The people were at window 12, and seemed to have their game together. They jostled each other, forms and stamps in hand.

A British woman next to me seemed to read my mind. Do you need an application, she asked. I’ll show you, we wasted so much time waiting here without one–she gestured to her friend.
She showed me where to grab an application and another window to buy stamps.
When you finish that, bring it back to #12.
A few painless minutes later I emerged from the Mugamma. I’d filled out the application, bought stamps and handed my application, photos and passport copies to infamous Ms. #`12.
Two hours later I came back to pick it up.

Though I’d left my camera in my office, the same security guard was convinced I had it. After emptying the contents of my backpack he finally waved me in.

Coming out a few minutes later I stared down at the new visa in my passport.

I could stay in Egypt until 4/12/09.
April?
Uhh…Ohh….Was I about to see the nasty side of the Mugamma?
How did they get April…I came in May and back in June, noting said May. And 12….?
Wait…
They swap the month and date from the American format.
My visa is until December 4th. Exactly 7 months after I arrived from Qatar. Six months from the date my entrance visa expired.

So beautiful, so official. 6 months in Egypt. Just over 2 dollars, just under 2 hours.

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