The Giza Zoo in Cairo, Egypt – Worth A Visit

I expected to be disturbed by what I saw at the Giza Zoo in Cairo. And I was. But I was also relieved to see that most of its animals seemed to be leading pretty good lives. At the Giza Zoo animals are not kept in the same carefully researched and painstakingly designed conditions as you’ll find in the U.S., my home country and the only other place where I’ve ever stepped foot inside a zoo. Some of them have a horrifying life in very small cages. However, most of the animals and birds that I saw seemed content enough in quite large, spacious areas.

Pelicans at the Giza zoo in Cairo

The Giza Zoo is located on the opposite side of the Nile River from the now-famous Tahrir Square and is right across the street from the Four Seasons Cairo First Residence Hotel. I spent two nights on the tenth floor of this luxury hotel to experience its Single Ladies Travelers Programme, during which time I was advised that the zoo might be a little unnerving because it doesn’t meet Western standards of animal rights. I decided no matter what it held, however, I must see this place. I braced myself for what deplorable conditions might greet me and walked across the street with the help of one of the Four Seasons doormen. Although I have traveled to Cairo several times, I still cannot cross the insanely trafficked multi-lane streets without assistance.

Inside the Giza Zoo I found a surprisingly peaceful, quiet atmosphere amidst the city’s chaotic hubbub. Most of the animals were kept in large areas which, to my untrained eye, seemed to be quite pleasant and suitable.

Baboons outdoors at the Giza zoo in Cairo, Egypt

The Springboks, an animal which I have not only never seen but never heard of before in my life, seemed to likewise be kept in fairly good environments.

A solo springbok at the giza zoo in Cairo

Springbok!

Another animal I’ve neither heard of nor before seen was the Bactrian Camel, wandering about somewhat freely.

A bactrian camel at the Giza Zoo in Cairo, Egypt

Several Bactrian camels at the Giza Zoo, Cairo

Unfortunately, I did see some animals living unhappily. The only elephant I saw was kept on a chain just a few inches long attached to its left leg, looking very unhappy. Poor thing.

Very unhappy elephant in Cairo

I’ve heard wild animals when caged pace around endlessly in circles. Now I know it’s true. By far the most disturbing sight I saw at the Giza Zoo was hyenas in cages. It was horrible. So horrible that there is a sign posted in English at the entrance of the building where they’re imprisoned, telling visitors not to take photos. I did anyway and got a finger shaken at me (which means no in Mid East speak) by a guard when I exited.

Cages where hyenas are kept at the Giza Zoo

Despite the disturbing sights I saw, the Giza Zoo in Cairo was really quite enjoyable. If you are ever in Cairo and have some extra time to see the non-mandatory sights, I recommend that you visit this zoo. You may be a little unsettled but I personally came away relieved that the majority of the animals are treated as well as they are.

6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Andrea says:

    I have a hard time with places like this. I know it’s not a first world country and we can’t expect the same standards, but if they can’t keep an elephant, an animal that is so intelligent and social that it’s a crime to keep it chained, in acceptable conditions, shouldn’t they do the right thing and allow another zoo to have it? Fair enough to keep the animals that they do have acceptable quarters for, but perhaps they should work towards improving the enclosures one at a time until all the animals are cared for properly. Just my two cents, of course.

  2. Sabina says:

    Hi, Andrea. Thanks a lot for commenting. I think the problem is that people in Egypt and other countries look at animals differently than we do. Whereas Westerners realize the animal kingdom is an important, living part of our world and we are taught to be upset by seeing animals suffer, other parts of the world seem to value them only for food, transportation and tourism needs and regard animals that have no use to them as being worth not much more than inantimate objects.

    I’ve never talked to anyone in a non-Western country about their feelings regarding animals and am basing what I’m saying on observations alone. Who is treating animals the right way – Westerners who go to lengths to protect and take care of them or people in other parts of the world which regard them as strictly utilitarian? Of course I think we in the Western world treat animals appropriately, but people in other parts of the world might believe differently.

  3. I always feel ambivalent about zoos. I love the possibility of being able to see animals I don’t usually see, yet I rather see them in nature. And I reg. caged animals going in circles circles: a bear in the Palermo Zoo in Buenos Aires kept going back and forth, back and forth.

  4. Sabina says:

    Hi, Ayelet – I know exactly what you mean. I never visit zoos because I’d rather visit animals in their natural habitats too, but I was very curious about just how bad this zoo might be. I’m glad I went because seeing how most of the animals were treated was a relief.

  5. Steve says:

    Yeah, that elephant doesn’t look like he’s having a good time. It seems like such a shame to keep an animal like that in a position like that.

    But I’m glad that most of the animals are doing pretty well. You can’t expect zoos in other countries to be up to the standards of the US, but it seems like they did well in keeping the animals happy.

    I went to a zoo in Vietnam which kind of depressed me. It wasn’t all horrible, but some of the animals were kept in bad areas. I remember one monkey was kept in basically a steel cage with a poorly kept food and water bowl. I just felt bad for him to have to be in there.

  6. Sabina says:

    Oh, Steve, seeing that monkey would have been so upsetting. It was such a relief seeing that this zoo wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I don’t see myself making an effort to visit any more questionable zoos, though. I’m still afraid of what I might find.

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