The capital and by far the largest city in Egypt – and also the largest city in Africa (it's the size of London) – Cairo is one of the most important cities anywhere in the Arab world. Sitting alongside the River Nile, it is known for its proximity to several ancient Egyptian sites; and for being home to Tahrir Square, the center of 2011's Egyptian Revolution. Now with its first democratically elected government, tourism is slowly coming back - the wealth of its antiquities (which have drawn travelers for thousands of years) providing an irresistible allure.
The main way here is via Cairo International Airport (CAI), the second-busiest African airport after the one in Johannesburg, South Africa. Approximately 10 miles northeast of the city center, the airport has direct flights from New York City on Egypt Air and many other routes from European cities.
Chief among convention venues, Cairo International Convention Center is the city's main gathering point. It covers 74 acres and 580,000 square feet of space, which even includes a Chinese garden; as well as 150,000 square feet of exhibition space, a banquet hall for 1,000 persons and three auditoriums (the largest able to seat 2,000 persons), among other spaces.
Hotels venues include the 726-room InterContinental Cairo Semiramis, which has meeting space for 1,300 persons; the 633-room Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa, which has meeting space for up to 800 persons; the 449-room Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo, which has, among other spaces, two ballrooms measuring 15,500 and 6,500 square feet, respectively; and the 433-room Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah, which has function room for up to 500 persons. (For a hotel with more Egyptian appurtenances, try the 105-room Om Kolthoom Hotel, named for Egypt's most famous singer and containing two ballrooms, the largest able to host up to 600 persons.)
Egypt's wonderful museums, full of wonderful antiquities; or its palaces with cool courtyards and gardens, are good places to start planning functions. It is possible to escape Cairo's business and busy-ness at the Ramses Wissa Wassef Arts Center, which stands on its own in Harrania Village, on the Saqqara road between Giza and Saqqara, and has cool gallery space and lots of exterior courtyards. Closer to the center of the city are the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, famous for its Royal Mummy Room, which has 107 halls, lecture rooms and lobby space for events, and Cairo Capital Club, which occupies the 18th to 20th floors of a building on Rostom Street in the Cairo's Garden City district and has banquet rooms, the very swish Cairo Lounge and a roof garden and separate terrace, both with amazing Cairo and River Nile views – all of which is due to reopen by the end of 2012.
Away from modernity, two fabulous Cairene options are a felucca boat trip with Santa Maria Tours along the Nile, usually starting at Luxor, for medium-sized groups on a series of Egyptian feluccas, ancient sailing vessels, and, of course, a spectacular evening at one of the area's world-famous antiquities such as the Pyramids of Giza or The Sphinx with fireworks, buffets, camel rides and music-and-light spectaculars.
Excellent restaurants that will take your mind off the hustle and bustle of Cairo include Taboula, a Lebanese restaurant in Garden City; Abou Shakra, a small chain that specializing in seafood and grilled meat, with a favored branch on El Merghany Street in Heliopolis; the very Egyptian, very wonderful Abou El Sid; Al Dabke, also serving Lebanese cuisine, in the huge, 835-room Fairmont Heliopolis, and Barry's, which is also is Egyptian in style and taste and had perfect sightlines of the pyramids.