Window 12, 42, and 33, Adventures of the Mugamma

About three months ago, during my job interview I asked my colleagues about changing my visa into temporary residency and obtaining a work permit.  I was assured that the human resources department at the university will deal with it.  Two months later, I realized no one has done anything, and I was therefore technically “illegal” in the country.  I couldn’t wait any longer, so I decided to go there myself.

The mugamma is a large building with various ministerial offices that has a terrible reputation for being the most bureaucratic entity in Cairo (imagine that!).  The Cairo Practical Guide warns: “This daunting pre-evolutionary monstrosity on the south side of Midan Al-Tahrir strikes terror in the heart of any Kafka fan.”

I left early morning and headed to the mugamma.  I arrived there at 9 a.m. and it was already packed. Of course I was given a million different directions of which way to go, but I finally found the right window, window 12.  I explained my situation, and I was informed that it’s not a big deal, all I need to do is pay the fine (150LE, about $30), which includes the cost of a 6 months visa extension.

She handed me the form and I proceed to fill it out in Arabic assuming that will make things easier since we are in an Arab country and sine most of the staff do not speak English.  I returned to the window and handed her the form.  She asked me to please fill it out again but this time in English because I have an American passport so it had to be in English.  I did as I’m told.

She then asked for 1 copy of the passport.  (Oops didn’t know I needed that!) I asked where I could find a photocopy machine and she directed me to the first floor.  I went downstairs and to be on the safe side, I asked for two copies of my passport instead of one!  I returned to window 12 and handed her one copy.  She then asked for a picture.  (Oops I didn’t know I needed that either!)  So I asked her half jokingly if I could photocopy my passport picture instead of handing in an actual picture.  She said: ya course, anything will do!  WOW, I can’t believe that worked!  So I handed her my other copy!  She then directed me to window 42 to buy some stamps costing 11LE.

I returned to window 12, and delivered the stamps.  Then they gave me a ticket and asked me to go back to window 42 to pay my fine.  At window 42 they told me this is NOT where I’m supposed to pay my fine, I should return to window 42.  Back atwindow 42, they directed me AGAIN to window 12!!! I then went to a random window and asked them where I’m supposed to pay my fine, and they explained that I should go to window 33, not window 44, or window 12!

I paid my fine at window 33, then went back to window 12.  They explained that I needed to get ANOTHER stamp from window 12.  I went back to window 12 to buy the 3 LE stamp, but they didn’t have change, so I couldn’t buy it!!! Ahhhhhhhh  At this point I wandered the halls asking random strangers if they had change for 50 LE, and in the process made some friends.  I finally managed to get change, and returned to window 12 to buy my stamp.

I returned to window 42, and at 10:30 I finally submited my passport.

I was told to return in two hours. So at 12:15 I returned.  I went to the window to pick up my passport, but there were MANY MANY people waiting there.  I finally got my passport at around 2:20.

Of course since we waited there for two more hours, I ended up meeting a lot of the people that were also just sitting there waiting for their passport, including an Algerian man, a Jordanian woman, two Palestinian men, and an American woman. It felt great to see people from all over the world.

The funny part is that while we were waiting, three different guys asked me out! One was as old as my father, if not older (and my father is 751).  The second was as old as my kid (if I had one), I know I always say I don’t care about age, but there are limits!  The third was a religious Christian man who was talking to me about how much he loves Cairo because it has a large Christian population and how he wants to get married from here.  However, before he left, he wanted my number and wanted to get together for dinner.  Confused, I remind him that I’m from Yemen (not from Egypt) and that I’m Muslim!

2:15 I left the mugamma with some funny stories, and an extended visa until February.  Alhamdulilah!

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