A stunning location for a historical event

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The 2010 Middle East Duty Free Conference began on Saturday night (with the Opening Cocktail) in what must be one of the most stunning locations ever for an industry event.

The Mena House Oberoi Hotel in Cairo, at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza, is playing host to this year’s show, with a turnout of around 350 delegates. That’s a strong and highly encouraging figure, given the show’s move outside the UAE for the first time – which in itself marks a historic moment for MEDFA.

But a few days here makes the attraction of a venue such as Cairo very clear: The Moodie Report was fortunate to have the chance to tour this great, ancient city along with other members of the trade media earlier on Saturday – with the pyramids and the magnificent Egyptian Museum the highlights. And on our tour we met many other members of the trade who had come to Cairo in advance to see the sighs and get a feel for the culture.

Among the highlights of the official event too is sure to be tonight’s (Sunday) visit to the pyramids for the Gala Dinner, for which IDF Trading & Agencies (owned by the Toulan family) worked hard to gain the necessary and very rare permissions from government.

Normally the pyramids close at 4pm, with no access to the site thereafter, but the duty free trade in the Middle East will dine and drink right at the foot of the Great Pyramid – another indication of just how fortunate we often are as a business in the locations we see and the experiences we can enjoy.

Day one of the conference, just ended, was a mixed day – with some strong contributions to the pivotal Egyptian duty free panel – notably from the leading concessionaires in the market plus, we thought, Cairo Airport Company Chief Commercial Officer Joachim Vonwinning – with a forthright, open viewpoint from the airport side on landlord-tenant relationships and the constraints of doing business in the market.

Technical issues didn’t help the smooth running of that panel – with three power cuts within an hour – but the speakers and audience fortunately took it in good spirit, even if it caused more than a few palpitations for organizers and moderators (including me) alike.

Tomorrow promises to be another good day, with the question of currency, crisis, technology and the future of the duty free brand in the region all up for discussion.

First though, it’s time to get ready to head for the pyramids.

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