Monday, September 23, 2013

Our National Identity

Last week I was in Manhattan to renew my Egyptian ID. It was a Tuesday and I made the assumption that the entire day would be consumed in the process. Although the website stated that appointments would be from 10:00 to 18:00, I decided to arrive at the consulate as early as possible and simply wait for my turn. To my surprise, they'd started that day at 9:00, no worries I was the twenty second person in line. To my surprise further, the process proceeded quite smoothly and in a very organized fashion. Of course there were the naysayers, those Egyptians who have been living away from Egypt for so long they have forgotten how to gauge their expectations. They complained that the new IDs weren't going to be delivered on the same day, that the process was taking too long (OMG - three whole hours), or that they were missing certain documents that halted the process. Oh, the horrors.

I suppose some context is in order. A special committee of government officials (police officers and what not) where visiting NYC for four days to allow as many people as possible to apply for an Egyptian ID since there has been an increase in demand as ID were required to vote in upcoming elections. So, when I say it took me three hours and the whole thing was very organized, it's important to keep in mind that the consulate was servicing 150 - 200 applicants each day. The employees were very helpful and accommodating. During those three hours, I was transported back home. Surrounded by nothing but Egyptians, clutching my Arabic application and documents, and listening to Egyptian chatter with Om Kalthoum in the background, I forgot that I was in the US, only to be hit with the reality as I stepped back on to 2nd Ave. 

All sorts of Egyptians were gathered at the consulate that day, people with expired passports and old paper IDs with black and white photographs, Egyptians who couldn't speak Arabic, Egyptians who haven't been back to Egypt in ages, Egyptians who were born abroad and have never lived in Egypt. As I sit at my desk typing this blog and listening to Aida Al Aiyoubi's Ala Baly and of course singing along quite poorly, I wonder why all these Egyptians were clamoring to apply for an Egyptian National ID. Was it due to their patriotic zeal or sense of entitlement.