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Thursday, March 10, 2016

At the Government Building

Hard to believe, but it was time to pay for our second month of DSL service from Telecom Egypt.  The service has worked very well, Linda and I share that connection.  When friends come over they can download their e-mails etc. via Wi-Fi.

We could pay "anywhere" or even put it on a credit card for automatic billing saving 10%.  But we needed to find out how to suspend the account for nine months also.  So it was time to go get into the queue at TE-Data again.

We were in luck since our friend, Roshdy, who helped with this whole DSL project also had another errand to run in the same neighborhood at one of the many Giza Government offices.  He was picking up a government document that was supposed to be ready by the 6th of the month.  Since it was now the 10th, it should be ready.  That was our first stop.

We entered a seven-story building and began climbing the stairs.  The lights were dim, the floors were granite and the walls were painted institutional green.  The stairs were packed with people descending as well as ascending.  There was no air-conditioning and if it is like other government offices here, probably no heat, either.  It was a warm morning (around 81 degrees at 11 a.m.) and we paused briefly on the second floor.  Roshdy showed me where you get "official stamps" on documents when needed.  There was a long line there.

We continued up the stairs to the third floor, again passing the flow of people who were descending.  The floors are organized by district.  Pyramids district on three, Faisal area on four, etc.  On the third floor, we walked down the long hall to a small room at the end.  (There is no obvious directory - you have to know that you need the third floor and which room to go to.)  Roshdy has obviously been here before.  In the room that is about 15 ft by 20 ft, there were four civil servants at well-worn wooden desks.  Roshdy headed straight to the lady  opposite the door.  I paused and waited by a tall rack of books.  These appeared to be the official records.  Bound at the top with cloth covers and stored flat on the racks in orderly stacks of three or four, I imagine there is an entry in one of them for everyone in the district.  My mind went back to my last visit to the Minnesota Historical Society and Pine County school records from 1900.  My mental trip was interrupted:

"Can I help you?" asked a young man in a galabeya.

"Oh, I'm with him," I replied, pointing to Roshdy, "but thank-you for asking!"   Almost everyone in Cairo is helpful, especially when they spot an obvious outsider in a place like this.

The stern-looking civil servant at the desk by the door then broke into a smile and had a conversation with the helpful bystander.  I took a few seconds to look at this worker at his desk.  He appeared to be around sixty years old, had a light grey beard and was wearing a heavy stocking cap and leather jacket.  (Remember that it was 81 degrees outside.) I was starting to sweat in my short-sleeved shirt.

Roshdy soon had an answer to his question, "No, the document wasn't ready yet."  This is probably a pretty common answer and helps account for the heavy traffic on the stairway.

We descended to the ground floor and headed next to TE-Data.  TE-Data is air-conditioned, has that sweet-voiced computer calling out the queue numbers and the comfortable waiting room on the second floor that only a few people know about.  We were in and out in under an hour today.

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