FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Doing Business in Cairo

by Ilona Kauremszky

Aug 1, 2016

Bedouins on camels near the pyramids © MAKSYM GORPENYUK | DREAMSTIME.COM

August 2016

Down a narrow, low-lying chamber, a trickle of tourists carefully heads into a monument dedicated to one of the world’s legendary leaders: King Khufu. For millennia, the Great Pyramid at Giza stood in a remote location in the Egyptian desert on the outskirts of Cairo, but now the crowded city creeps around its dusty edge. The pyramids pull on the imagination and remain a must-see for business and leisure travelers alike.

Settled more than 1,000 years ago along the banks of the Nile in an area once ruled by Egyptian pharaohs like the Great King Menes who united Upper and Lower Egypt, today the bustling capital of the Arab Republic of Egypt has an elected president who oversees government affairs. The city of Cairo, whose name means “the victorious” in Arabic, remains the center of Egyptian culture and commerce. Considered the largest metropolitan city in Africa and the Middle East with more than 20 million residents, Cairo offers corporate travelers a dizzying array of venues, from restaurants and accommodations to attractions and authentic experiences.

Start the epic business trip at Cairo International Airport, located in the city’s northeast, 10 miles from the business district. Egypt’s busiest airport, this hub welcomes more than 14 million passengers annually and serves more than 30 international airlines, including the national carrier, the Star Alliance-partnered EgyptAir. For airport transfers, business travelers can access a fleet of limousines, shuttle buses and taxis available at the renovated, state-of-the-art Terminal 3. Seek out the metered white cabs over the old unmetered black taxis which require fee negotiations. For downtown taxi trips expect to pay from $11 for roughly a 45-minute ride, depending on traffic.

Pack patience when traveling anywhere in Cairo. Day or night, city traffic crawls at a snail’s pace. For commutes, it’s best to inquire with the hotel concierge about hiring a personal driver, or use the ridesharing program Uber.

While the government’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics reports tourist arrivals to Egypt in December 2015 were 43.7 percent lower than the previous year — attributed to the downing of a Russian commercial plane — the Central Bank of Egypt recently indicated an increase of 441,000 international visitors in March compared to this past February, with 347,000 foreign travelers.

Fueled by scenes of everyday life, Cairo pulses as the heart of Egypt with a cacophonous beat that can cause a sensory overload if you’re not prepared. Splayed along the River Nile, the city includes various districts like the exclusive Zamalek with its foreign embassies on Gezira Island; Heliopolis, a sprawling affluent area near the airport attracting luxury seekers; and fashionable Garden City, a wealthy hub known for its executive offices, including the epicenter of Cairo’s historic Egyptian Revolution in 2011, Tahrir Square.

Lunch in Cairo is its own affair. A collection of luxury hotels features fine restaurants for impressing clients. For a shisha smoker’s paradise and a taste of authentic local culture, the newly renovated Bab El Nil Restaurant in the Nile City corporate complex billows in fruit-scented clouds. This arabesque lair at the Fairmont Nile City is big on belly dancers and a unique, living green wall. Sumptuously decorated, vivid color schemes encircle the private dining niches. The big bang, however, comes from watching the street life, since Bab El Nil overlooks the Corniche El Nil and the Nile. Other dining options include a spectacular rooftop venue with a panoramic view of the Nile and the pyramids.The luxury hotel makes the ideal location for business events, featuring 9,100 square feet of interior plus 4,800 square feet of outdoor space dedicated to meetings and conventions, with sweeping panoramas of the Nile and the pyramids in the distance.

The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo opened its doors in October 2015 on the shores of the Nile. Offering 5-star luxury accommodations, the hotel features state-of-the-art meeting rooms, an array of dining venues and private excursions to the pyramids. Treat clients and colleagues to afternoon tea service or seal the deal over drinks at the rooftop bar.

Some areas in the city offer a momentary respite from the incessant hum of Cairo’s traffic. Invite corporate clients to explore the world’s oldest ancient wonder at the Giza Plateau and see the famous manmade structures of Menkaure, Khafre and Khufu’s Great Pyramid. Local vendors sell trinkets and souvenirs while bedecked Bedouins approach for the popular camel rides. Language skills are limited, but some camel operators understand English.

Spend the afternoon with business associates in Old Cairo, a historic enclave located south of modern Cairo. Take a guided walking tour in this warren of ancient stone laneways dating back to Biblical times. Explore the Hanging Church, suspended on the bastions of a Roman wall, and Egypt’s oldest Jewish place of worship, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, among other antiquities. Another ultimate favorite stop is the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. Guides for hire often gather around the entrance. Self-guided tours are also available, allowing more time to tour the collections.

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