In contrast to the other animals housed in the large and overcrowded zoo, the giraffes have a bigger and better-kept habitat considering their number. There is, however, a good reason for that since the excitement around them is hard to miss if you walk around the zoo for more than a few minutes. The giraffes are under close public scrutiny.
Five minutes into the zoo and one could already hear fellow visitors mention, talk, and ask about the giraffes. Even in passing, it was clear that the giraffes were a new and must-see attraction for the otherwise seasoned visitors who come to the zoo every year during holidays.
Around the area where the giraffes are being housed, visitors could discern the novelty of the three new residents. “The giraffes are in better conditions than the rest of the animals. They have a cleaner place with more grass and a special diet that is more strictly enforced. People are excited about them,” said Mohamed, a student.
Basma, a college graduate, agreed about the excitement but had her own reservations: “The giraffes are a bit dull,” she said, laughing. “They do not interact with us at all but they look nice. They were not here last year when we came. Maybe it is all the people staring at them. Generally, there is a lot of excitement over the new giraffes. Everyone who passes by has to stop for a while to look at them.”
Not everyone was aware of the giraffes’ special status as the zoo’s most recent import. “I did not know anything about the giraffes being new. But this one has been up since seven to come here so we are all very excited to be here!” said Fathy, referring to his youngest daughter.
The visitors also agreed that conditions at the zoo were less-than-optimum, to say the least. “They should clean up more, especially because of the large crowds, and these street vendors should not be allowed in here,” added Mohamed.
“They do not clean up. We go at other less-crowded times and it is a lot nicer and cleaner than it is now, though I know that the litter is generally because of the guests and not the zoo itself. They should also take better care of the animals and provide cleaner habitats for them. The vendors take advantage of people and sell basics, like water, at a marked-up price that most people cannot afford,” reiterated Basma.
In addition to the poor conditions of the zoo and the general lack of hygiene and order, talking to the zoo officials about the giraffes, or anything else for that matter, was a bureaucratic nightmare. Multiple office visit and permits were required, as was a fee of EGP 2,000 per day for the zoo to grant interviews.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Giza Zoo was expelled from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in 2004 for not complying with their standards.
That being said, it is very difficult to ignore the jubilation of the crowd and the general feeling of excitement among the zoo’s visitors, with the younger ones especially bringing constant enthusiasm and joy to the general mood.
The general lack of discipline and the poor conditions at the zoo are hard to overlook, but with the large collection of animals and proximity to most of central Cairo, the zoo remains a favourite outing for families during the holidays. And at EGP 3 per ticket, even if the price has gone up over the past years, it is one that many people can still afford.