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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to the Mugamma

We needed to extend our visa's, since we are staying in Egypt beyond thirty days and that meant a trip downtown to the Mugamma, the center of government operations. The building itself is a bit intimidating:

This description from a Wikipedia page describes the place better than I can:
Mugamma Mugamma, literary meaning ‘combined,’ is Egypt’s government office complex located on the south side of Midan El Tahrir in Cairo, Egypt, where all the paperwork is done. It’s a twenty story tall building with narrow hallways, unlabeled doors and a billion people (seemingly) all shouting at the top of their lungs trying to get their paperwork done at the many government agencies located in this one building. The agencies there include the Fire Fighting Organization, the Tax Evasion Investigations Offices, the Passport Offices and the High Committee for Sports and Youth, as well as many others. This is where one goes to get a marriage license or a driver's license, or for that matter, most any other license one can imagine. If one has business of almost any kind to transact with the country of Egypt, this is the place.
We approached our task via the main entrance:

If you are thinking "Soviet-style," when you see the pictures, you are correct.  The building was a fraternal gift from the Soviet Union to the Egyptian people in the early 1950s. We headed for the 1st floor (one floor above the ground floor) and passed through the second set of metal detectors.

There are 56 numbered and labeled windows for trasacting business on the "visa end" of the first floor.  We started out at window 38 labeled "Tourist Res. Processing" and were quickly directed to window 12 to pick up the correct form.  The lady at window 12 gave us a form and a few directions.  The four page form is about 9" x 14" and asks for passport number, birth date and a few other items.  Not knowing how specific to be, I supplied "Christian" for my religion.  We already had photos but needed copies of our passports and current visas.  That meant a trip downstairs to the photocopy service.  Linda elbowed her way to the front of the line.  One pound apiece ($0.18) to the copy lady and then we headed back upstairs.

The next stop was window 43, "Fees and Stamps."  We each got four pretty stamps for a total of 23 pounds($4.24).  Back to window 12.  It is winter here so each of the clerks had a leather or wool coat on.  Ours was topped out in a wool hat over her scarf.  I'd say the temperature was in the mid 60s in the building.

The lady took our applications, stapled the photos to them, applied the four stamps in the assigned area, placed the photocopies inside the forms, handed off the forms to one staff member and the passports to another.  "In two hours, Window 38!" she said.

Two hours is easily passed downtown. We returned to window 38.  No need to ask any questions.  Our passports were quickly pulled from the stack and handed to us.  We can stay until July 3rd, if we choose.  With any luck, the snow will have melted in Minnesota well before that.

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