Scotsabroad's Weblog

March 13, 2010


Filed under: Mercedes — scotsabroad @ 6:47 pm

Our car is now displaying some fine new registration plates.

Our previous registration ran out way back in August and we have been driving around Cairo dreading check points and traffic police. Having experienced the registration process downtown at Attaba Traffic Department two years ago, I was not looking forward to this morning’s visit.  Also, I would find out how much we would have to pay in fines for traffic violations committed since last registering. Would we also get fined for registering late? One of my colleagues recently had to pay a substantial amount of money in fines. Traffic police are often seen at junctions with notebooks and scraps of paper, writing down the registration number of drivers (presumably) not wearing their seatbelts, using a mobile phone while driving, going the wrong way, driving without lights at night,  reversing back on to the motorway, sharing the driving with their young children and (or probably), driving with too much care and attention and slowing everyone else down.

So, I was not feeling very optimistic and just hoped that I had taken enough money – and enough small tender to help things along. I also took along M who knew exactly where to go, in what order to accomplish things and who to approach. He has wasta which in translation means connections. The car being thirty years old was not a problem. For me, placing the department just off Attaba Square made getting there the first challenge. There was a new entrance since last time and already the car park was filling up with car owners.

Basically, this was when M  took over. I submissively handed over passport, photocopies and cash for the next two hours. We went from one booth to the next and up to one floor and down, outside and inside several times. I parted with money at the insurance portacabin outside and another booth distributed a folder, for a small fee,  for all the paperwork required inside – genius. When I was told the fines on the car amounted to only 56 LE and 50 piastres I was delighted.  We must drive like locals! Then on to the first floor to process the equivalent of an MOT and the documentation for a fee. I remember I had to buy a fire extinguisher last time, today it was checked at the fire extinguisher booth and deemed acceptable for a small fee. The car was then checked by a mechanic and the old number plates were optimistically removed. A rubbing of the engine serial number was taken and the documents sent over to the seated chief mechanic. A discrepancy was found, as the number did not match with that on the old registration card. Another rub and a missing digit gets included in the paperwork. Then I’m told to get the car out of the parking lot and find a place to park it on the street. This is downtown Cairo. Eventually, after a few circuits around the one-way system at Attaba, I double park and rejoin M on the first floor, clutching my old plates. I watch him skillfully make his way to the front of a booth and hand over my paperwork. I am asked to sign a few documents here and there but it is M who works at one booth, turns and starts processing something else at another. Not a computer in sight but lots of carbon paper and beautiful stamps required for numerous documents. Names are called out to collect paperwork, registration cards or new plates. The floors are mobbed but some people are just sitting on benches staring in to space instead of jostling at the window booths. Have they given up? Have they lost some important document? Have they run out of money? Could they tell you how long they have been in this building? At other times I am asked for contributions to help speed things along. We go upstairs for what I think is an eye test but it turns out I am asked my nationality and my passport photograph is checked.

It seems I can pay for two years registration backdated to August. However, the deposit required on the new plates, seen tantalizingly behind the glass, is a staggering maximum daily ATM withdrawal. My only consolation is seeing other car owners clutching huge wads of cash and exchanging them for new plates. And they do now come with tamper-proof screws. Finally, getting your new registration plates fitted in the street is twice the price of getting them screwed inside the Attaba Traffic Department compound.  Afterwards, somehow, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Now these guys needed wasta:


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