Red Tape Egyptian Style: The Ordeal of Renewing A Driver License

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As someone who is has been living away from Egypt for years, I forgot how arduous it is getting simple things done, such as renewing a driver license. I did not plan on getting it renewed during this vacation, but when I arrived and took a look at it, it was about to expire in a month. Luckily, it is valid for 10 years, and hence the need to go for renewal is less frequent than the 5 years of Ontario.I had forgotten the sheer amount of bureaucracy required when interacting with government agencies for any type of document to be issued. Here are the steps that are needed to get a driver license renewed. I don't even want to think of what would have happened if this one had expired and I needed a new one with a test and all.

  • Photos: You need to get your photo taken. You will need 3 passport sized photos.
  • Medical Certificates: You need to go to a clinic or hospital and get two certificates, one for  an eye exam, and the other for general medicine. Each one of those certificates will have a photo on it.
  • Traffic Violations: You then need to go to the traffic complex of the Ministry of Interior, give them your old license, and get a certificate saying you either have no traffic tickets, or that you paid those that are against you. I was kind of lucky to have a "helpful" person "expedite" the process from one window to the other, so it took only a few minutes to get this done. I paid the guy 2 L.E. as a tip (a common practice in Egypt that I despise but have to live with).
  • Photocopies: You now have to go to a kiosk outside the buildings to have your ID photocopied twice (anywhere between 0.5 LE to 1 LE).
  • File Folder: You now have to go to another kiosk to purchase a special file folder. It is marked 8 L.E., but you pay 9 L.E. for it.
  • Damgha: purchase special damgha stamps. These are a special hidden tax that is required for "talking" to any government agency (2.5 L.E.).
  • Fill the Application: You now have to fill two pages of application.
  • Stand in Line and apply: This is one of the hardest parts. The line is long and unorganized. There are no seats in the area, and everyone crowds at the window. There are no tickets to get and get your number called like other non-government offices have (e.g. Egypt Air). Also there is a parallel invisible line present, from an alternative channel: those who use someone's influence to get ahead of the line, or those who pay expedition fees for the same.
  • Get old file from archives: The woman on the window checks the application, then writes a number on a piece of paper, and asks you to get the file from the archives. She does not even say where the archives are, or anything else. Turns out that the archives is just a door less than a few meters away from her. When I asked why does she not give the paper to the person in charge of the archives herself, the answer from fellow applicants in line is that each person gets an expedition fee or tip. The strange part is that the archive person takes the file straight to the woman, not to me! The woman then scribbles some numbers on a paper and asks me to pay at the cashier.
  • Pay the fees: I then go to the cashier window, which several meters away from the application window. The fees are in three parts, and total 51 L.E. The man has to write two of those on separate receipts, and gives you a "police stamp" which is another tax that goes to the coffers on the police force directly. The man will give you yet a third form to fill.
  • Get the application stamped: You take the receipts and the last form and take them back to the application window. The woman then gives you an application with a photo on it, and points you to someone else. That someone is her superior and all she does is stamp the application.
  • Give the application to the card issuance area: You then go to another line and give them the filled and stamped application.
  • Wait till you get called, then have your picture taken. Do not bother to smile or have your hair brushed. The picture is small and will not look good anyway.
  • Wait till they call your name, get your card, and sign for it.
  • Finally you are done!

This did not take as much time as it sounds. It only took two hours, which is not bad by Egyptian standards.It is unfair to compare this to renewing Ontario, Canada driver licenses, where the main challenge is driving to the office to get your license renewed, but I will list the process anyway:

  • Receive the renewal notice in  the mail.
  • Fill the application and go to the office.
  • Take a number or stand in line.
  • Present the application.
  • Pay by credit card and get the receipt.
  • Get your picture taken.
  • Wait for the new license in the mail.

The process is done all from one window and one person and takes less than 10 minutes to do!عمار يا مصر




انا متشكر مش عايز لا رخصه مصري واتمني اسوق في مصر تاني

Yeah, I'm Egyptian and living

Yeah, I'm Egyptian and living in Ontario too. I remember the G1 took me 1.5 hours from the time I walked into the bureau till the time I left. The G2 took me around the same amount of time registering for a road test and actually sitting it.

In Egypt, they refused to match my Ontario license with an Egyptian license...really, I don't even want to talk about the experience. I blocked it out of memory, much in the same way I block other horrific memories.

It's all so sad too, because I can't drive in Egypt. I sweat my collar out just sitting in the passenger seat. It's a harrowing experience that sadly makes me want to leave again :)