An Egyptian military production company has been awarded a contract to develop two of Greater Cairo’s most prominent public parks.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has long decried the decline of the zoo, once a cherished public attraction.
"You want to know what has become of Egypt? Go to the zoo to see the extent of negligence and shortcomings," he said earlier this year.
During a televised phone-in to talk show Maged El Serty, CEO of the National Military Production Company for Projects, Engineering Consultations and General Supplies, said his company will begin an 18-month development of Giza Zoo and Orman Garden next month.
When asked by talk show host Lamis El Hadidy about the financial size of the contract, Mr El Serty said he did not have the numbers to hand.
Egypt’s Parliament approved the contract on Thursday.
Both attractions had been under the management of Egypt’s agriculture ministry for more than a century, however management will now be transferred under the new contract to the Ministry of Military Production, under whose umbrella Mr El Serty’s company exists.
The agriculture ministry will stay on in a managerial and advisory capacity under the new agreement and will “have a say in all management matters,” according to Mr El Serty.
The 32-hectare Giza Zoo, once an illustrious attraction famed for the variety of animals in its care, will be closed for a year starting January for renovation work.
The military will also manage the parks’ finances through a 25-year usufruct contract, Mr El Serty said.
After incidents at other Egyptian public projects, when military-run developments were decried for levelling green spaces and uprooting trees, Mr El Serty confirmed that this project was going to take particular care not to repeat the approach, adding that it was a condition from a foreign consultant brought in to oversee the project.
Once renovated, the zoo will house its animals in open-range areas.
Bernard Harrison and Friends, a Singapore-based zoo designing consultant, will participate in the project, Mr El Serty said.
Giza Zoo is the third-oldest zoo in the world, and the oldest in Africa.
It first opened its doors to visitors in 1891 and maintained its position as a top attraction in the Arab world until the 1950s when a period of decline began. It was subsequently kicked out of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums because it failed to pay its membership fees and meet the required standards by inspectors.
Since President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, a former armed forces chief, became president in 2014 military-owned companies have prospered.
Although their industries were once limited to weapons and minor real estate, Egypt’s military has in recent years expanded into a wide range of industries including construction, renewable energy, fish farms and holiday resorts.
The military also owns 51 per cent of a firm constructing a $45 billion capital city east of Cairo.