When I first traveled to Egypt for the purpose of getting married to my Egyptian fiance (on 29th of September) – my second time in Egypt – I thought one – two months maximum would be enough for us to get married, get our marriage certificate transcribed at the embassy and get his visa and plane tickets to Romania.
I made a mental plan, I even added some extra time for unforeseen situations and I thought in two months, maybe three I would be back home, in Romania, for work.
Five and a half months later I was still in Egypt. It is true that we had a problem with my husband’s name which added one-two extra months. One of his five names was written incorrectly on his birthday certificate therefore he had to go through a very long and frustrating procedure in order to first correct his name (in the court) and ultimately change his ID, university records and driving license to his new correct name.
It is really difficult to imagine or believe that even without the name delay getting married or actually doing anything that requires documents in Egypt is more than a challenge. It is chaos! It is war! You have been warned now 🙂 . Better be equipped with nerves of steel and be ready to fight, sweat and spill some blood :), literally. Only if one really loves his/her Egyptian partner would go through this hell of a process.
Most of your time will be spent at MOGAMA AL TAHRIR (Ministry of Interior) that deals mostly with foreigners, residence permits for touristic purposes or non-touristic purposes and so on, at the embassy (which is another hell), legalization offices belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice (Lazoghly Square), plus many other places you will have to go to at least once or twice. MOGAMA was by far the worst place, a living hell on earth. I spent almost three months in that place, from morning until closing time, so I can only speak from experience. If you think you know what a crowded place looks like, let me tell you that you know nothing. It is difficult to imagine a huge building packed with people, hundreds maybe even thousands. Before 8.30 a.m. when the doors of the institution open for the public there is already a huge line of people waiting to get in and this line literally starts from the street and continues all the way through the big square that leads to and up until the door. And inside…oh, God, inside it is full of people. One literally has to rub his/her body on other bodies and fight his/her way through. There is a big staircase to the right as soon as you enter the main hallway leading to the floor where you need to go for your residence be it touristic or non-touristic for 6 months (a requirement for the marriage itself at the Ministry of Justice) or for your residence permit (1/3/5 years – for instance, the Romanian Embassy in Cairo asks for at least 1 year residence in order to have the Egyptian marriage certificate transcribed there).
There are many window-like desks with numbers and titles where supposedly you should be able to do what you went there for. I am aware of the fact that I am repeating myself too often but the entire place is packed with hundreds of people. There are no rules, there is no order. People come and go from all directions until they literally bump into each other creating human walls and none of these waves of people is willing to move backwards and let others pass. Everyone only fights to move forward. Queues? There are no queues in the traditional sense of the word, as most of us know them. Just a sea of people standing in front of all the window-offices.
Be warned and be prepared to stand in a long queue just for some information or to reach the end of the line and finally think it’s your turn just to be sent to the back of the queue or to be told that is the wrong window and you have to go stand in another queue for hours only to be told the same thing or to be told to come tomorrow, and tomorrow the next day and the next day the day after.
It is also worth mentioning that all these institutions work from 9.00 till 13.00-14.00. So you only have 5 hours to get something done, maybe even less because often enough 30 minutes or one hour before the end of the working hours, the public servants in question and public servants in general just don’t feel like working anymore and nothing will change their mind (begging, crying, yelling, pregnant women, elderly people, handicapped etc.). They are experts at turning their back at you and ignoring everyone and everything, playing on the phones, eating or drinking tea.
By VascoPlanet Cairo Cairo photos by Vyacheslav Argenberg – originally posted to Flickr as Modan Tahrir (2005-05-343), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4481230