On Monday, I took to my passport to the Mogamma, the super-adminstrative edifice pictured above, in the hopes that my tourist visa would be replaced with a longer-lasting/fancier-looking journalist’s visa. I imagine that smarter reporters send someone to do this for them. My passport is currently locked in a death struggle with the bureacracy, but I won’t write about that now, because I want said passport, which I’ve only just renewed at some expense, to escape.
Some things I know/have noticed about the Mogamma (which means Complex — like complex of buildings, not complicated. )
1. The lines for the elevators, which are often 40 people deep, are incredibly orderly, and single-file. This is shocking, given the chaos surrounding these lines. The folks that run the elevators in our NY court buildings might consider sending observers here.
2. The Mogamma was built in the 1960s, and intended as a version of midtown’s DMV Express, but for everything — except driver’s licenses, which you deal with someplace else. There are mini-ministries inside the Mogamma, so one needn’t visit the real ministries. The vice police have an office here, and so do the people that hand out commercial licenses. I saw only a few computers, but many typewriters and lots of legal-sized files. Now, I am the subject of a legal-sized file.
3. The Mogamma was the focus of an incredibly popular Egyptian movie titled Irhab wa Kebab (Terrorism and Kebab). In the film, the Egyptian comedian Adel Imam, frustrated while carrying out some mundane task (moving his kids’ school), attacks a religious employee of the Mogamma, who spends his day praying. In the ensuing chaos, as I understand it, not having seen the film, Imam finds himself with hostages and first demands some really good lamb kebab, then moves on to bigger things, like the resignation of the president’s cabinet.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 7, 2004