Notarizing documents for Egypt. How hard can it be?…..

The Egyptian embassy in the Netherlands does not have a website. I’m not sure if they ever had one, but the one linked on Google leads to nothing. With no information and no reply to my emails, I did what I always do: I just winged it.

The first visit:

A lot of people. I’m guessing around 20. Mostly male. Only travel agency representatives and Egyptians. The main consular service guy who kept walking towards the fence didn’t speak English (nor Dutch). I waited for 1.5 hours, not being assertive, just assuming that I had to wait my turn, while people pushed in front of me. I clearly still have too much Canada in me; haven’t made the cultural switch yet. Finally, after nearly two hours, a lady comes out. I elbow three men out of the way, and tell her I need to notarize two documents. She takes them inside, then tells me to wait. She doesn’t tell me for how long. So I wait. I wait another hour. The same man comes out 10 more times (let’s call him fence man), with the people on the other side of the fence talking and waving documents in front of him, while using very elaborate hand gestures (I will explain those sometime. It’s beautiful). Everyone is frustrated. The waiting took a long time and it started to rain. Some guy wrecks the bulletin board off of the fence (semi-accidentally) and murmurs the same thing over and over again while ringing the bell a million times. I have no idea what’s going on. Then I look at the one lady to my left. She had also been waiting for quite some time. I ask her politely if there’s any chance the fence man said something about documents or pick-up. She says: “not yet, but just ask him. I will translate.” Fence man tells me to wait just a little longer. The lady turns to me and says:

“You’re not Egyptian?”

“Half. I’m half Egyptian”

“Half. and half Dutch?”

“Yes.”

“You need to get your Egyptian half to come out and fight for your documents, or you will never get them! Be more assertive!”

I laugh nervously, while looking at the row of men holding on to the fence. “Thank you, I’ll do my best” I say.

“Good luck my dear” she says.

Fence man hands over the documents. I say thank you in Arabic, then walk away. I look back one more time and see everyone staring in my direction.

The second visit:

Eid al-Adha. Islamic holy festival. Embassy closed. But how could I know? I just had to know. I didn’t know. Did not educate myself. Went for nothing. Cool.

The third visit:

I had one day left before leaving the Netherlands. One day to get the last batch of documents notarized (It was a long process of going to a million different places to get a million different stamps, so wasn’t able to do it all at once). I had no idea if they were open. I didn’t want to make another expensive trip for no reason, and I was contemplating whether or not to go. Then, out of the blue, a lady who previously worked at the embassy, whose information I found on an expat help forum, replied to a message I sent her (on LinkedIn) at least 3 months ago. She sent me a number the embassy uses for WhatsApp. The embassy uses WhatsApp! Amazing. I immediately sent a message in English, asking if the embassy was open. No reply. Now, you might think: why don’t you just translate to Arabic online? Kids, Arabic language is too complicated for translation software to ever translate correctly. Try it. Impossible. I was about to give up, when a friend knew a friend who spoke Arabic. I forwarded their message, and lo and behold, the embassy replied, at 3 am! Apparently they made an appointment for me. Unbelievable. So I woke up in a panic, put on some slacks, and stumbled out the door. I managed to get there in time. This time, the fence man spoke English. Everything went effortlessly (I also realized the importance of improving my Arabic asap). I actually got to go down to the consular department, which was basically a desk with stacks of paper. Loved it (genuinely). Loved all of it.

Thus, finally, on the last day before departure, I picked up the last set of documents. I was over the moon. So happy. Relieved. Then, two hours later the embassy sent me a WhatsApp message. Remember what I just said about translation software and Arabic? The translation said: “I came to the embassy on (date), and it was necessary.” Panic yet again ensued. I thought they were calling me back. Did I do something wrong? Were the documents no good? Did they want more money? WHAT DID THEY NEED?!!!!!!!???…. Well, turns out they just sent a confirmation of my visit to let me know that everything went well. How kind. I spent the rest of the day in bed, de-stressing. My anxiety levels….

But, amazingly, I am now prepared to take on Egypt. I am ready for you, Cairo! Maybe. Hopefully…

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