Monday, December 26, 2011

The Egyptian Postal Service

Most of the time when I have shipped Egyptian film posters from Cairo to the USA using the Egyptian postal service there have been no problems and there has also been the advantage that shipments done the cheapest way (which they call the "by sea" method) is much less expensive than any other method available; this has always been 100 percent reliable, if also quite slow. From Cairo I usually send posters to myself in the USA about 10 days ahead of my expected arrival home, with perfectly satisfactory results.

When I've done this it has sometimes been necessary to shepherd my shipments through Customs or through the Supervision Office (al-Raqaba). There would be no need for this if the postal employees really knew their jobs well because in Egypt it is OK to ship printed materials out of the country if they are less than 100 years old, even though some of these are quite scarce and collectible. Every poster or film journal I have ever seen from Egypt is less than 100 years old. There could well be a few here and there that are more than 100 years old, but I've never seen one and it is also unlikely any of the postal employees would recognize such an item if it were placed before them.

Occasionally one of the postal people will take an officious attitude, tell me these are "rare" items that might not be permissible for export, and hold me up for a few hours. This rarely happens now because they all know me and they also know if I am there trying to get my goods cleared, sooner or later the senior officer will be summoned to the scene and they will have to relent since they have no real grounds for objecting. Sometimes I think they make these delays just to have an opportunity to draw me into a political discussion about Israel and Gaza. They don't have enough to do, obviously.

Recently I've been having posters sent to me from Cairo by a friend, who just takes the goods to the post office and deposits them there for forwarding to the US. He does not wait around to make sure the Customs or supervision authorities OK the shipment as I always do. His last shipment was held up for 10 days, until he finally went back to the post office to investigate and found his shipment to me waiting for release at the Supervision Office. This holdup could well have lasted for months if he had not gone back to see what was going on.

We finally decided today that from now on we will send everything by FedEx to bypass the bored government bureaucrats who over the years have established their tiny rings of authority at the Egyptian Postal Service. This will save us some time. However, when I am in Cairo again I will use the cheap "by sea" method as before.

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