2.15 am. With some delay Pegasus Airlines flight PC858 lands in Kuwait Airport, on board a very exciting young girl, returning to the desert country after an absence of more than two years. The only thing standing between her and a reunion with her desert home? A visa.
It’s not busy when I enter the visa department. An Arabic-speaking family of five and two Turkish guys are the only other ones having to go through the visa process on arrival. From experience I know that the wisest game plan is to get a number first, then fill in the visa form, proceed to buy the visa stamps, and only then go the officials at the desks. This saves you a large number of walks between machines (both copy and stamp) and the visa officials. Since it’s the middle of the night the guy who’s supposed to hand out numbers is not there, so the plan has to be changed. I decide to skip that step and move straight to filling in the forms and getting the stamps from the stamp machines.
The stamp machines won’t cooperate, no matter what I try. At last one of the visa officials takes pity on me, leaves his desks and comes up to me. ‘Old money’ he points out. Fuckerdefuckerdefuck. Some 150 KD (think about 300 euros) I had never exchanged after my internship two years ago, out of sentimentality and the wish to eventually return here, gone worthless overnight. Great.
‘Get new money’. The visa official points to the NBK branch situated next to the visa department. Following his directions, I withdraw money and return to the stamp machines. Which of course decline to cooperate yet again. ‘Only 1 and 2 KD bills’, the visa official instructs me when I again apply for his help. Could be the case, even though on the machine it is written that it accepts 10 KD bills, which I’ve been trying to feed it for a while now. Of course I don’t have the 1 and 2 KD bills, as I just got money and 1 and 2 KD is really to small to receive it from any ATM. ‘Go exchange money’. Two minutes earlier the NBK office was deserted, which I point out to the official. He calls his colleague, and I get my money exchanged for 1 and 2 KD bills. And I proceed again to buy my visa stamps.
Not entirely to my surprise, the machine again refuses to give me the precious visa stamps. Sleep deprived, I feel moodier by the minute. Desperate I again appeal to one of the visa officials. ‘Could you pretty pretty pretty please help me one last time?’. The young man behind the counter follows me to the stamp machine. The problem is then quickly solved by plugging the machine’s plug in the socket…
With my precious visa stamps now secured I start queuing. It is not long before it is my turn, and when I say I’ve been in Kuwait before the official asks for the numbers of my previous passports, to look up whether I’ve been a good girl on my previous visits. When he doesn’t find anything discriminating, the visa is issued within the minute. ‘Welcome to Kuwait!’.
Photo credits: Khaleel Halder (CC-BY-NC 2.0)