I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe to you the process we went through when shipping Boggy from Greece to Egypt and for the lack of proper words I suggest you go ahead and simply watch this excerpt from The 12 tasks of Asterix. It’s our experience in a nutshell. For everyone else: grab a drink, you might need it to calm down your nerves.
fixer (noun) \ˈfik-sər \ : a local guy who will make things happen for money, may exhibit a certain degree of shady-ness.
Shipping your car from Greece to Egypt consists basically of 2 parts: first getting it in and out of the Piraeus port, second getting it in and out of the Alexandria port. Thus, we were working with two agencies, one on the Greek and one on the Egyptian side, both of which we found through travel southbound.
Once we had the final confirmation of our vessel we were headed to the port of Piraeus where we met Kostas, our fixer on the Greek side (fixer (noun) \ˈfik-sər \ à a local guy who will make things happen for money, may exhibit a certain degree of shady-ness). He took care of the paperwork with customs, made Bjoern sign various documents written in Greek with their content unbeknownst to us until today (hello phone contract/ new washing machine/ lifelong supply of dog food!). Then came the most uncomfortable part: we had to leave Boggy at the parking place inside the port area, keys in ignition. Yep, that's right - and there’s no way around it. We were told beforehand that we needed to clear out the car entirely and since that was obviously not possible we put away as many of our belongings as we could, and for the rest we relied on the Good in people (spoiler alert: we do not believe in the Good in people anymore*). Time to wave good bye to Boggy (one of us may have given him a kiss) and get our asses to Egypt!
Since it would take Boggy a while to arrive in Alexandria, we had decided to take a quick detour to Cairo, checking out the Pyramids and also taking care of our visa for Sudan. But not before our second COVID-19 testing in Athens - this time a little more official in a hospital - in order to be able to board the plane to Cairo. Of course, as 21st century helicopter parents we took measures to make sure we could always watch Boggy to see if our baby would be ok.
After a couple of days in Cairo (find the experience here), we took a train to Alexandria where we were going to be in for the real fun part - little did we know yet.
The whole process to get Boggy out of the port in Alexandria took 4 days, a lot of sweat, uncountable steps and a couple of much needed purchases at Drinkies, the store that provides alcohol in Egypt. All of this would have never been possible without Salah, our fixer in Alexandria. He really was the calmest and nicest guy, basically babysitting us for 4 days (even though he spoke very little English, everything worked out just fine as the only words he ever needed where: wait, sit, passport and come). There is NO way we could have done what he did on your own, we followed him like little puppies with Bjoern again signing documents in a language - this time Arabic - we have no clue of.
The whole process was madness - for instance, in order to get your car out of the port you must get access to the port area in which case you must obtain temporary citizenship for which you have to go to the townhall where your passport will get stamped by the lady at counter one who ignores you for 10 minutes and then grabs your passport and stamps it without ever talking to you. And that’s just to set foot into the port area, so I spare you the other details. For those still interested in taking a test on their mental health by shipping your car to Egypt - head this way.
Every morning we would meet Salah at his office and he would take us on a wild tour to various offices around the city and the port. He always brought along an envelope which started out with 2 documents inside that would amount to a huge pile within the course of 3 days, and on the 4th day he gradually got rid of all of them. It almost felt like playing a game of Settlers of Catan where first, it’s your job to collect all kinds of goods which you will then use to build yourself roads, houses and settlements. So, we basically just gave it a twist and played Unsettlers of Catan.
Despite formally being a presidential democracy, Egypt’s public life still has a strong authoritarian character, so military and police hold a lot of power. It seemed as if a lot of steps during the process relied on the mercy of some kind of police official - bootlicking was an inevitable part of the whole hustle. The other part you might not be used to, having grown up with the German bureaucratic system, was the improvising. Randomly stopping on a busy street to exchange money for documents or being handed the Egyptian license plate by a guy that looked very… unofficial. Oh, and for unknown reasons you can’t get one of the stamps in Alexandria anymore? No problem, Bjoern and Salah will spend an additional entire day travelling back to Cairo to get it (no, Katha won’t join, she’s getting accustomed to Egyptian bacteria). The mechanics at customs can’t find your chassis number? Don’t worry, they’ll hammer it in right in front of you. The police chief wants a photo with you? Of course, we’ll pose.
PLEASE. GIVE. US. OUR. CAR. BACK. ALREADY. And just when we were about to lose it, Salah said the word: FINISH. And all there was left to do was attaching the Egyptian license plate with cable ties.
And by the way: if anyone sees Greek or Egyptian port workers cooking themselves a delicious meal on a decent European camping stove or enjoying a down dog on a couple of nice yoga mats - this shit belongs to us.
*items that were missing: camping stove, 2 yoga mats, 1 scale, 1 LED working light, 1 vegetable peeler, 1 knife, 5 pens, 1 headband.