The area where the zoo and the Orman Garden are located nowadays was once a part of the Saray El Giza Gardens “The Royal Gardens”. Those gardens were considered as a botanical garden which used to provide the royal palaces with trees and plants. It also contained a number of rare plants from different parts of the earth.
In the year 1890 AD, 50 feddans were separated during the reign of Khedive Tawfiq from the southern part (Haramalik Garden) to establish the Zoological Garden.
It is affirmed for us that Khedive Ismail was the first to think about the establishment of a zoological garden, and he also hoped to open it on the occasion of the celebrations of the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869 AD, but he did not have enough time to do so; do he was urged to collect a number of animals and birds in the El Gezira Palace which is the Marriott Hotel in Zamalek nowadays. On the first of March 1891 AD, these Zoological Garden was opened to the public, and was called at that time by "The Crown Jewel of the Zoological Gardens in Africa".
When the University Street was planned in 1934 AD, Nahda Street was likewise extended to connect the University Street to the University Bridge. The Nahda Street separated the Orman part from the Selamlik
part (38 feddans), which had been joined to the Zoo zone to make its area 80 acres approximately.
The Zoological Garden exhibits mammals, birds and reptiles of different species distributed within fourteen regions, representing 360 different strains of more than one hundred species of pythons, snakes (poisonous, semi-poisonous and non-poisonous), serpents, turtles, lizards, monitor lizards, geckos, also, the Egyptian and American crocodiles, jerboas, hedgehogs, scorpions and chameleons.
The Garden also acts as a scientific institute where scientists study the behavior of animals and birds. Currently, five NGOs are conducting campaigns to encourage people to preserve wildlife and develop environmental awareness in Egypt.
The Zoological Garden in Giza is not only one of the most beautiful zoological gardens in the world as well as one of the most densely populated zoos and variety of species and types of animals in them, but it is also a great exhibition of many historical monuments, such as the five grottoes with a magnificent glamor that decorate the garden and a number of other features such as:
1- Al Qala’a Grotto “The Citadel Grotto”:
Al Qala’a Grotto “The Citadel Grotto”: or the Royal Grotto; which is composed of five areas in the form of hills. The most important of these is the hill, that was built in 1867 AD., and was then called “Al Qala’a Grotto” or the Citadel Grotto. This part is decorated with a collection of statues of extinct dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds of strange shapes. The grotto contains pathways that are covered with plants, a range of waterfalls and an area in the middle that serves as a resting place and also it contains a collection of figurines for birds and reptiles made of cement and gravel. The waterways flow through a group of caves containing white coral rocks suspended in waterfalls leading to a small lake with two islands connected together by a wooden bridge. The grotto is built in a unique way that makes it air-conditioned naturally and amplifies sound without the need for loudspeakers.
2- Al Shame’dan Grotto “The Candelabrum Grotto”:
The grotto was built in the same style as the Citadel Grotto, and the types of rocks used in the construction of this grotto were the same as those used in the previous one. The Candelabrum Grotto is characterized by the presence of limestone sediments in the form of candelabra hanging from the ceiling of the caves; this may be the reason for calling it by this name.
3- Geziret El Shai Grotto “Tea Island Grotto”:
it is similar to the previous grottoes and characterized by a large group of caves.
4- The Suspension Bridge:
It is also called the Swinging Bridge. The bridge was built by the famous French architect “Eiffel”. The purpose of building that bridge was to link the Khedive’s Palace with the Harem’s Palace in the royal palaces of Giza. The bridge is composed of a wooden floor and is loaded from each side with steel wires and the bridge swings upon walking onto it.
Khedive Ismail ordered for the construction of a suspension bridge in the zoo in Giza to connect the Khedive’s Palace with the Harem’s Palace in the royal palaces in Giza. He charged the engineer Gustave Eiffel of constructing the bridge and his company “Eiffel et Cie” had implemented it between the years1875 and 1879 AD, i.e. before the construction of the Eiffel Tower by more than ten years. This happened when the Zoological Garden was once a part of the Saray El Giza Gardens, and of course before its official inauguration in 1891 AD.
The Suspension Bridge is considered as the world's first high stage in a zoological garden. The logo of Khedive Ismail, which is composed of IP letters (referring to the initials of “Ismaiel Pasha”).
5- The Antique Gates:
They are located in front of the old dogs’ house and represent the entrance to the Khedive’s Palace and his mother’s (Walda Pasha) Palace.
6. The Japanese Kiosk:
The Japanese kiosk was established during the reign of King Fuad in 1924 AD, on the occasion of the visit of the Crown Prince of Japan to Egypt. The Japanese kiosk is considered as a small museum inside the Zoological Garden. It contains some old and recent holdings and photographs of the Zoological Garden.
7. The Animal Museum:
In addition to the number of animals in the garden, there is a museum that was built in 1906 AD. It consists of three large halls and displays large groups of birds, reptiles, fish and stuffed animals as well as a set of skeletons. There are also two exhibition halls showing different sets of reptile skins, and birds, and there is an embalming laboratory attached to the museum and located behind it. The museum possesses more than five thousand mummified specimens, the most important of them are; a mummified crocodile since the ancient Egyptians for more than five thousand years, and whale which was once thrown by the waves towards the city of Alexandria.
Of the oldest constructions in the garden:
- The house of bears, which was established between 1891-1896 AD.
- The house of hyenas, which was established in 1896 AD.
- The house of the elephants, which was established in 1900AD.
- The birds’ kiosks established in 1901 AD.
- The main house of lions which was established in 1901 AD.
- The old reptiles’ house, which was established in 1902 AD (the house of experimental animals now).
- The antelopes’ barns, which was established between 1905 and 1911 AD.
- The hippopotamus pond, which was established in 1911 AD.
- The Zoological Museum, which was established in 1914 AD and then opened in 1920 AD.