Zaki was born in the Egyptian city of El Mansoura on the 1st of April, 1983. By his own admission he was a troublemaker at school and only wanted to score goals playing football. He says he came from a "good, happy family", who encouraged him on the pitch by paying him his first goal bonuses.
He started his career with local side El Mansoura Sporting Club before joining ENPPI and finishing as the Egyptian Premier League's top scorer in 2003/04.
Zaki's performances for Egypt in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations - in which he scored the winning goal in the semi-final on the way to winning the cup - raised interest from clubs including Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers, but he preferred to get started at a new club straight away and joined Lokomotiv Moscow for €1.7million in February, ready for the new Russian season starting in March. The move was seen by both Zaki and his new club as a stepping stone to a big transfer to an English Premier League club.