Well, Egypt has a real-life Circumlocution Office. It's called the Mujamma, and it's a massive, 16-story building stuffed to the gills with bureaucracy. If you need to get something done that is even remotely related to the government, you have to go there. You can't do it online. You can't send someone in your place. You have to go there yourself.
Our turn to experience the Mujamma came just the other day when we had to get our visas renewed. We showed up here:
and a guard told us to head for the first floor (second floor, American style). (Forgive the blurry photos from here on out because they were taken with our video camera, and taken clandestinely.) We walked down a long hallway
and I got really concerned that we might be in for a wait when I saw the impromptu snack stand set up outside the immigration office. Never a good sign.
We got some forms, and the girls got some snacks, and this guy yelled at a fellow visa supplicant and dear goodness how do they keep track of anything in that mess??
We went downstairs to get our pictures taken and some copies made, in a tiny re-purposed hallway that did not move the substantial pedestrian traffic very well.
The photographer told me to button up my shirt a little more (I don't think they quite get undershirts here).
Then we let the girls run around while we waited for the pictures.
Along with all these people.
Then we headed back upstairs.
Down the hall again, into the room full of windows again.
We handed in our forms and pictures and copies and THEN they told us that since we were tardy in renewing our visas anyway, we could just do it at the airport when we left the country. This information would have been helpful about one hour and a few trips up and down the stairs ago. So dangit, we renewed our visas anyway to make it worthwhile.
Not so fast! First we had to go to window number 1.
But not that window number 1, a different window number 1.
We paid a fine and then we were on our way.
Except without our passports. We still have to go back to pick those up. Shudder.
I've heard that people have committed suicide at the Mujamma by jumping out the windows or down the stairwells. Maybe that's why they put the immigration office right there on the first floor, so it's not such an accessible option amid all the paperwork frustration (kind of like the fences on the bridges at Cornell). I think we got off pretty easy, all things considered. We made it out of the Circumlocution Office having actually accomplished something. I think we can call that a success.