Business as usual for Cairo international
Cairo international has remained very much open for business during the turbulent political events that have transformed Egypt since 2011. Tourist traffic to Africa’s second busiest airport has of course fallen sharply, but the airport authority has nonetheless bravely forged on with its expansion plans, opening a seasonal terminal for Hajj pilgrims in September, and ploughing on with a $387 million (£248.65 million) refurbishment of the ageing Terminal 2, which was built back in the 1980s.Senior executives at the airport dream of following in the footsteps of Dubai international, transforming Cairo International into a dynamic, regional hub, serving the Middle East, Africa and the foreign tourists who until this recently came in their millions each year to visit this sprawling, but historic metropolis. The airport already handles over 16 million passengers a year. Forty-five scheduled airlines fly to 80 international destinations worldwide and Cairo International continues to attract new carriers and routes • LOT, Hainan Airlines and Jazeera Airways all started to fly to the airport in 2011.There have certainly been some big infrastructure improvements in recent years. The biggest upgrade was the opening in 2009 of Terminal 3, which doubled the capacity of the airport to 22 million. Future improvements include a 5-star hotel, a metro link to the city centre, and perhaps most ambitiously of all, the construction of a massive $183 million (£117.58 million) ‘Aerocity’ boasting a business park and a Disney World-style entertainment centre.
All these upgrades and plans have not gone unnoticed. In fact, in the influential 2010 SkyTrax Airport Awards Cairo International was praised for being one of the world’s most improved airports in terms of passenger service. Not everything is perfect, of course. Touts pestering for tips for helping passengers to carry their bags continue to be a gripe for travellers, for instance, but we are happy to report the shopping offer is pretty good, especially in the new Terminal 3.
There are actually four terminals at Cairo international, but as Terminal 2 is closed until 2013, and the recently opened Seasonal Terminal is dedicated for Muslim pilgrims travelling to Hajj, the two terminals that most travellers at the airport see are Terminals 1 and Terminals 3, which are connected by a free shuttle bus. Egyptair and other Star Alliance airlines like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines have the run of Terminal 3, while other airlines use the older Terminal 1.The central marketplace of Terminal 3 is the undoubted shopping highlight at Cairo International, extending to more than 5,000 square metres. Egyptair Duty Free runs around 80% of this space and their flagship duty-free store wouldn’t be out of place in any major European or Asian airport. The focus is very much on fashion, beauty and luxury with brands such as Rolex, Hugo Boss, Shisheido, Bally and Tumi boasting branded areas in-store. Casual fashion wear label Marco O’Polo also has shop-in-shop there too.Confectionery is always popular in this part of the world, but don’t expect violet creams and fancy Belgian pralines. Mass-market brands such as M&Ms, Mars Celebration, Galaxy, Toblerone and Maltesers are what tickle the taste buds in these parts. For those looking for a healthier snack, there is also a large range of nuts. To see the full range of what’s on offer at Egyptair Duty Free, check out the retailer’s website at http://dutyfree.egyptair.com/en/homepage/page/2.
If you are arriving at either Terminal 3 or Terminal 1, be aware that there are arrivals duty-free shops, and while the allowances are not exactly generous (just 1-litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes), the very high price of alcohol downtown certainly make these stores an attractive place to stock up. Also note that arriving international passengers have up to 48 hours to buy duty-free after leaving the airport. They can do this at Egyptair Duty Free’s downtown outlet at the Heliopolis shopping centre (see its location athttp://dutyfree.egyptair.com/en/store_location/page/6/city/1/location/2).
Back in Terminal 3 if you are feeling peckish after your wander around the shops the Food Court is pretty good by regional standards. Options include Italian (Gino’s), Asian noodles (Yumcha), the Hippo Bar and Grill, a healthy juice bar and any number of cafés. See the airport’s website at http://www.cairo-airport.com/services_restaurants.asp for the full rundown of dining choices.
Over in Terminal 1 the retail offer has been improving steadily for some time and new stores are opening quite regularly (Swiss fashion watch brand Swatch opened a shop there fairly recently, for instance). Cairo Airport Duty Free is the operator here, running a large 500 square metre shop on the terminal’s Mezzanine, which sells the usual range of beauty and fragrances, gold and jewellery, liquor, tobacco, confectionery and electronics.
The jewellery store in Terminal 1 is particularly good with an excellent selection of gold and silver jewellery. We also particularly like the fact the shop stocks jewellery from the Austrian brand Frey-Wille, many of whose highly decorative designs are heavily influenced by Egyptian mythology. Take a look at the company’s website at www.frey-wille.com to get a better idea of the brand look.
Cairo International has long way to go to rival Dubai international, but it is undoubtedly moving in the right direction.
Duty Free Allowances
Cairo airport official shopping site