We arrived in Egypt with one and a half days to spare before our tour officially started. Our first order of business was the Egyptian Museum, but the next day we wanted to do something that didn’t require a taxi ride. The Giza Zoo was located directly across the street from our hotel, so it won by default.
The Giza Zoo opened in 1891 as a botanical garden over an area of about 80 acres. It’s one of only a few green spaces in the city, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that we were literally the only non-Egyptians there. In fact, I think my uncle and I drew significantly more attention than any of the animal exhibits, and several couples asked to take photos with us.
A quick search of the Giza Zoo yields some horrors, such as an article with the title “Giza Zoo Might Be the Worst Zoo in the World.” Luckily, I read these dismal reviews (“not recommended”) after we had spent the day there. While the negative reviews certainly have merit, we thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the grounds, which are—as my uncle accurately said—in an exquisite state of decay (my preferred state, to be honest).
In 2004, the Giza Zoo was expelled from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums because it had stopped paying membership fees and began ignoring the association’s recommendations. In 2004, two gorillas thought to be infected with the Ebola virus were killed by zookeepers; in 2006, more than 500 birds were slaughtered to prevent the outbreak of the bird flu; in 2013 a giraffe at the zoo allegedly committed suicide after being hassled by visitors (“don’t teas animals, they have feeling like you") and around the same time three black bears died during a bear riot.
You don’t pay much attention to rules and regulations until you suddenly find yourself in a place without them, and the Giza Zoo felt like we had traveled not only to another county, but to another time as well. A time when you could interact with and feed the animals (for a fee, of course, nothing in Egypt is free) or easily climb into their enclosures. My uncle and I were enamored with the shear volume of stray cats, although we did recognize that it was silly to go all the way to Africa and spend our time gawking at cats (something that we can both do for free in our respective homes).
When I later told others in our group about our day at the zoo, someone mentioned that the zoo had recently been accused of trying to pass off a painted a donkey as a zebra. It turns out that the zebra imposter was found at a different zoo in Cairo, but based on what we had seen at the Giza Zoo, the story seems entirely plausible.
Charles De Gaulle، Road، Oula,
Giza Governorate 12612, Egypt