The zoo opened in 1891 on grounds that originally housed the harem of the Khedive Ismael, the Ottoman viceroy who ruled Egypt at the time. He donated the 80-acre plot known as the Garden of Delights to the state.
Glimpses of the zoo's former glory remain. There are the two artificial hills joined by a green suspension bridge that the Khedive commissioned from Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who designed Paris's Eiffel Tower. The newly renovated royal hills are still covered with the coral, petrified wood and stone the Khedive brought in from the Egyptian desert.