All last week the hype about the Suez Canal Certificates had reached epic proportions. But there was nothing definitive, like when they will be issued or for how long this would go on. True we were told in what denominations they will be issued and what was the full amount that is needed before they would stop selling them. Thursday, the last working day of the week, Facebook friends assured me would be the first day of sales. So early Thursday morning I called the short number of the National Bank of Egypt to get official confirmation so I could work out the logistics of buying in. The surprising response I got was that they still had no information about that, and why don’t I call them back later just in case they did get the information. Fair enough.
Waiting before I could call again I went onto Facebook and read all about the people who were right there at the banks, buying those certificates. I was stumped! How could it be actually happening and the information center of the bank has no idea! Talk about incompetence. This is definitely one of the most important aspects of business in Egypt that should be tackled, the lack of correct and timely information. By the time I called the bank back and they confirmed that they were selling the certificates it was too late for me to start the rounds. So I had to reconcile myself to going on Sunday after the weekend of Friday and Saturday.
During the weekend a great many people talked about their buying these certificates and the excitement and feeling of joy in participating in building up Egypt again. But even among all this euphoria there were the sour notes. I read a full article, which was doing its best to plant seeds of doubt about the feasibility of that project. In fact it concluded that this was a project that was not properly thought through with inadequate plans and a bad start. What these people do not seem to understand is the fact that Egyptians have thirsted for a national project that would rally them around the flag for the betterment of Egypt. A project that would rouse their interest, evoke their imagination and satisfy their patriotism and love for the country. A project grand enough to make them proud and rich enough to make them eager for a better economic future. A project that would reinstate our national pride in Egypt and re-establish our dignity among nations.
We have always prided ourselves on our independence, and what a rich country Egypt is with its natural resources and its people. The past few years of ‘poverty’ arising from being thoroughly and completely robbed through rampant corruption, and the resultant seeking of financing done by the previous Presidents, have left Egyptians ashamed and their pride and dignity badly hurt. So a national, large project was needed to unify the people behind their leader in a cause that would return their feeling of pride and show their love for their country. What those people who try to sow doubt about this project do not realize is that the more they try to cause problems, the stronger the support they garner for the already very popular President Al Sisi. The direct effect this article had on me has been to double the amount I had originally set for buying these certificates, and the more this project is attacked the more the people will rally around it and our President. This project has answered a very strong need within the Egyptian psyche that has been thirsting for decades for the return of the pride and dignity of Egypt.
So Sunday morning, early, I went to the first bank to get the cash, and then drove to the branch of the issuing bank that had all my money and certificates. The traffic was reasonable going into Cairo at that hour; the other side of the road was highly congested with all those coming out of Cairo. So going in was not a problem.
I got to the bank and at the door was given the numbers for both teller help and customer service assistance. I only needed Customer Services, as that was where the certificates were being issued. My number was 906 but the moment I got up there to the VIP Customer Service hall, the number on the monitor was 915! I immediately went up to the guard there and told him that I just got this number that seemed to have been called even before it was issued. He smiled and said that they were having problems with the monitor. I asked him if it was counting backwards? He laughed and said no, there was a power cut and this had muddled the monitor. He asked me to take a seat and that it will be sorted out. I did. After settling in I started looking about me. It was interesting to see how many people were there. All the seats by that time were taken and there were even a few standing around. The glimpse I had of the Customer Services downstairs was one of a crowd overflowing out of the hall. This was very reassuring; the attempts at sabotaging this effort seemed to have had a contrary effect.
The VIP Customer Services hall is a spacious, cheerfully decorated large room, the chairs are mostly deep, leather armchairs, the walls a fresh cream color with many lovely prints of pastel colored flowers and some discreet posters about the bank’s different schemes. Most of the people there were elderly elegant men and women, talking in whispers and patiently waiting to see how this debacle of the temperamental monitor would be resolved. When things did not move along at a satisfactory pace, some ladies took up the challenge and in true form of Egyptian women got it solved. On each ticket the time was stamped, so people’s turns were assigned as per the time and not the number on the ticket. In a few minutes those enterprising, efficient women had everybody satisfied that their turn was kept in the correct chronological order. That was the first hurdle overcome.
When my turn came I went in and was served by a very elegantly veiled young lady. Dressed all in a black trousers suit with a black and white blouse and matching headscarf, more like a turban than a proper hijab, fully made up, decked out in discreet silver jewelry with high heels to finish the elegant look. I was hoping that issuance of the certificate would go smoothly and quickly. I had already been there for two hours. But Murphy’s Law is always waiting in the wings. Issuing the certificate was not a problem at all, but printing it was a totally different ball game. There is one printer that is set up to print from any of the computers in the room. There were only five computers, but it seems that not all those working there were very proficient in the printing process. When it was the turn of my certificate to get printed, the printer insisted on printing the previous certificate. Over and over and over again. When the situation started bordering on the ridiculous I got up and asked them to either cancel the order for printing that certificate or shut down the printer then reboot. These two options seemed to sound like heresy to them, so the alternative of having it printed on the computer downstairs was settled upon. So down I went with that elegant young employee who kept trying to get one of the employees there to print my certificate, but was told that the printer was acting up as well! It sounded like there was a little equipment devil let loose in that bank all morning. When I reached the point where I was insisting they print it at their leisure and hold it with the rest of my bonds they panicked; their current rule is not to keep any paper certificates anymore. This near panic must have scared the equipment devil, for immediately all printers started working beautifully.
Three hours after getting to the bank I left, the proud owner of concrete proof of my love for Egypt. True my nerves were in tatters and I still had a long drive home, but I felt happy and satisfied that I did my little part for Egypt.
7 Sept. 2014