Monday, April 27, 2009

The Sudanese visa

So, after hearing all the scare stories we are relieved to finally have Sudanese visas safely entered in our passports. There is so much conficting information going around that we were wondering on Satruday night if we would have to fly to Ethiopia instead of going through the Sudan. Even people in Cairo were telling us that British passport holders have to wait three weeks, and then are generally rejected, or that they are no longer issuing visas after the ICC stuck their noses in.

The process was not without its troubles though. A successful application requires the application form in duplicate, with two passport photos, a copy of both the ID page of the passport and the page with the Egyptian visa and a letter of introduction from the applicants embassy. Oh and $100 in cash, clean bills only. Three of our fifty dollar bills were rejected for being dirty so we had to scrape together loose change, and borrow a stack of fives from Stepan, two of these were initially rejected as well, for being old, until a friendly Sudanese guy stepped in and convinced the cashier they were genuine.

This was not the main problem though. The main problem was obtained the letter of introduction from our embassies. Actually for me (Allan) it was no problem, roll up to the UK embassy, suffer a joke about my passport photo, go through security, explain the purpose of my visit, pay 240LE (Egyptian pounds, this is roughly 30GBP) and wait five minutes. For Monika it was not so easy. Unfortunately we have had many negative experiences recently with Czechs in positions of authority who have developed some sort of complex and are not able to be helpful at all. In fact, not only are they unhelpful but downright rude and unsympathetic as well. Sometimes it seems as if the Czech Republic is stuck in pre-1989 eastern Europe. Mr Ambassador basically told Monika that he would not give her the letter, that she should have arranged her Sudanese visa inVienna (?) and he doesn't know why anyone would want to visit Sudan anyway. No apologies, no "I wish I could help but..." just a flat refusal. And quite why he feels that he can advice someone over where they take their holidays I don't know. Of course this dialogue took place over the phone, he would not reduce himself to actually have to speak face to face with a simple vassal of his own country. I should add here that I have met and heard third hand of travellers from countries such as Canada, South Africa, Germany, Norway, Finland, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Poland and Switzerland who have had no problem applying for the letter from their embassy, both here and in other situations where it is required (Pakistan visa applications for instance). No, he was just a pompous prick with a problem. As I said, experiences like this are becoming all too regular these days. Stepan, our Czech friend who lives in Dubai, had a week off work (as a steward for Emirates) and joined us to travel from the Sinai peninsular to Cairo. He had to hang around the various embassies with us yesterday, his last day of holidays. He recently wrote a formal letter of complaint to CSA (Czech Airlines) about the rudeness of the check-in staff. They replied, stating that "his complaint had no standing". What is that? Would any company from the West dare to use such language? He is not sure if he will ever go back to the Czech Republic to live, why would he, he lived in the US and Switzerland for two years each and has now been in Dunai almost 2 years, and is used to being treated as a human being. Every time he returns to the Czech Republis he becomes more and more depressed by the total lack not only of customer service but of humility and friendliness between the people. No-one minds being refused something, as long as they are refused with sympathy.

Luckily for us we found a loophole. The secretary of the ambassador, who was more sympathetic, told us all she could do was "legalise a signature". So we wrote a letter, in plain English, stating that Monika had visited the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Egypt in order to obtain a letter of introduction to support a Sudanese visa applciation. The secretary confirmed her signature with an official stamp. We are unsure whether the ambassador even knew about it. At the Sudanese embassy they were dubious but we convinced them of its legality.

So, by 12:30pm yesterday we had completed the application process and just had the agonising wait until 10am today to find out if we were successful. We were!

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, it's not surprising to me. We had a bit of trouble in Canada during our visit two years ago (our our car was broken-into and some documents were stolen) and our consul in Montreal (JUDr. Viera Jarešová - why not to promote her a bit?) was searching all possible ways how to avoid helping us...

    Probably these diplomatic workers are too busy with all those banquettes and official dinners, that they can't deal with the real work. (Read: they are having hangover every other day) :)

    Anyway, thanks for the icelandic contact and have a safe and enjoyable trip further on!