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Day 193 – Pay Like An Egyptian

2nd April 2012

sunny 20 °C

And so to business; we were in Addis Ababa. We needed two more visas to reach the Mediterranean; Sudan and Egypt. Wim, our Dutch landlord, had advised us that Sudanese visas are easier to obtain if you already have an Egyptian one. With that in mind, we were first out of the traps and made the Egyptian Consulate five minutes before it opened at nine o’clock. We were a little confused by the sign reading ‘Single Entry Tourist Visa - 310Birr’ in comparison to the ‘Single Entry Tourist Visa (British Citizen) - 1200Birr’ but, given that we weren’t very nice when we decided we liked the Suez Canal we decided it was probably to be expected.

We entered the office and discussed our requirements. The exceptionally nice lady informed us that the Ethiopian government needed to know where our money had come from to pay for our visas. Telling them it was HSBC Woolton and a day’s locuming I’d done in 1999 wasn’t going to suffice. We needed either a bank slip with each of our names on to the amount of 310birr, or we needed a bank receipt to show that we’d changed US dollars into Birr. We left the building, bewildered but resigned to a solving a complication. The first two banks couldn’t offer receipts with their cash withdrawals. Since Laura’s card and our dollars where in the car, some distance away, we decided to change our Birr into Dollars and then change the dollars back into Birr and get our all important receipt. We’d lose a dollar in the process but it was ten o’clock and we really just wanted to get a wriggle on.

The second bank had told us that they only accepted dollars; only their main branch could issue them. We hired a taxi and found the bank who said that it would be no problem; they just needed our passports and plane tickets. Since Redvers doesn’t issue tickets, let alone fly through the air at five hundred miles an hour the ladies behind the desk politely smiled and in essence advised us that we were done for. Three banks down, we bit the bullet went back across town to our car, obtained the dollars and then changed them into Birr and took our compulsory receipts back to the Egyptian Embassy. From there it took ten minutes for our passports to be accepted we could collect it on Wednesday afternoon. (Since they were only charging us 310Birr we decided not to draw the ladies attention to out Britishness.)

With bureaucratic wrangling underway, we could tend to our list of maintenance bits and pieces. We needed a sim card, a man who could fix expensive camera lenses and some wheel nuts, a rear windscreen and a solution to Redvers’ broken horn. The camera shop we’d been told about by the Egyptian lady and it wasn’t long before we’d been informed it was screwed and, no one sells Sony lenses in Ethiopia.

We found a little cafe called La Parisienne which served us Pain au Chocolat, Apple Strudel, freshly pressed fruit juices, a tea and a coffee all for a song. Car parts could wait until tomorrow, before that we suspected a dry-run at the Sudanese Embassy might help avoid unwanted obstacles on Wednesday afternoon.

It was an inspired idea. It turned out that we would not need a letter from Her Majesty’s Government to say that our passports were real, and further more we would require a letter of invitation from someone in Sudan. Between us we counted at least twenty eight friends, none of whom happened to be Sudanese. Hopefully we’d have rectified that in one month’s time but right now we needed new friends and fast.

We retired to Wims and over a few beers, and a few hours on the internet, we e-mailed eight of the fanciest hotels in Khartoum suggesting that they should be able to assist such discerning clients. We convinced a man in Hampshire that he could sell his camera lens on E-bay and we’d arrange DHL collection from his office the following day and take responsibility for customs in Addis and we arranged said DHL courier to collect the lens. The internet was wonderful.

Posted by ibeamish 21:46 Archived in Ethiopia

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