Since our telephone land line won't be arriving until April, we thought it might be good to authorize a friend to act in our absence. That requires some paperwork. In Egypt, you can authorize someone else to act on your behalf, for example, to drive your car and stay out of trouble with the police, by signing some paperwork in the presence of a government employee. I gather that it is sort of like signing something in front of a Notary Public. Of course, these government officials are not found in every bank, real estate office and the like. They work at the Mugamma and a few other government offices.
One such place is located on the edge of Giza Square. Now, Giza Square is not on most tourist itineraries as a destination. It holds the confluence of a railway station, a metro line, a great many micro-buses and a lot of people. It reminds me of my first visit to the Grand Central Station bus terminal in Manhattan in the early '70s. We arrived and found a parking space beneath one of the elevated roadways that normally lets you bypass the square.
We moved on foot to the area shown by the arrow.
Soon we were passing this koshary restaurant and approaching the wooden door of a photo studio - right behind that chicken broiler.
The entrance to the photo studio also serves as the entrance to the government office on the second floor. Proceed up the stairs.
There are some images that can't be conveyed via photography. This is one. It would take an outstanding writer to conjure up the images of a dark, echoing concrete stairway with people moving in both directions and arriving at the second floor landing. There we faced an array of tiny rooms with peeling institutional-green paint along with desks and chairs that might have been castoffs from a 1950s insurance company. I though back immediately to Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday preparing to interrogate a subject beneath a harsh bare bulb.
Our friend presented our situation and my passport to the official in charge of the second room we entered; the first room bureaucrat had rejected us entirely. The official carefully examined each page in the passport seeking the correct type of visa. We flunked the test. "Lazim" was the word Linda heard repeatedly. It translates to, "It is required." Well, then, perhaps an appeal to the senior official in charge? But it was only 10 a.m., so he hadn't arrived at work yet.
We moved on to other, simpler tasks. Our friend needed help with his smartphone. This modern privately owned cellphone office provides service to its customers with a smile in a pleasant environment honoring the one-year guarantee on its products. They will also swap out your 2GB memory chip for a new 16GB one, saving all your data and only charge you $7 for the service.
Later in the day, I showed the picture of the door to the government office to another friend. His eyes brightened with immediate recognition. "Oh, did you go to Giza Square? Did you need to sign some papers?" I guess everyone in this part of town knows that unlabeled stairway behind the chicken broiler.