What’s Arabic for ‘Fire!’?

Marsa Matruh Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 94 › view all entries
In Alexandria with a cat I adopted outside the Citadel
Alexandria - 2 days ago ….

I had a restless night sleep the night previously (9 May) as the hotel room we were staying in had a dodgy door. For hours I drifted in and out of sleep thinking someone was breaking into the room, only to realise after a fitful night, that it was the wind howling shaking the door on it’s hinges.
So on the following day (10 May), I didn’t have the energy to spend traveling around on a bus looking at sights out of town and I decided to look around the city instead. During the day I managed to use all modes of transportation the city had to offer; taxi, walking, tram and horse and carriage and saw many of the main attractions such as the Citadel (25 L.E entrance fee for foreigners), the 4th century Roman theatre (20 L.E for adults or 15 L.E with my sneaky student id which I got in 2005) and I even took in the Library (10 L.
Outside El Alamein War Cemetery
E for adults or 5 L.E for students).

The evening in Alexandria started off well. After coming home, and showering and feasting on a sumptuous meal of muesli bars, Janet and I were watching a movie when all of a sudden a flame caught my eye. The flame came from the electrical socket at the back of the headboard behind the bedside table. Our quick thinking meant we quickly shifted the furniture from the flaming area and rung reception to explain the situation.

This was where the real drama began.

Me: “Hello?”
Hotel: “Rec” crackle crackle “eption”
Me: “Hello? Is this Reception?”
Hotel: Crackle on the phone line “Reception”
Me: “Hello, I’m calling from Room 807. We have a fire in our room.”
Hotel: “Yes.
The view from the chapel at El Alamein
I’ll send someone up.”

We waited patiently for 20 minutes, but decided to call again as no one had showed up.

Me: “Hello?”
Hotel: “Reception.”
Me: “Yes we called about 20 minutes ago. We had a fire in our room and someone was going to come and check it out.”
Hotel: “Yes”
Me: “They haven’t turned up and we are still waiting.”
Hotel: “Okay, I will send someone up.”

This time we only had to wait a few minutes before a man turned up to ‘help’ us. He spoke no word of English and we spoke no Arabic to explain what had occurred. Clearly my gesturing and my pointing and Janet’s pointing and her gesturing didn’t help. So we came up with another plan of attack - call Reception, relay our problem and they would translate to the man standing in our room.
Remanent of the North African Campaign - a Sherman tank (U.S.A)


It was a good plan, a well-executed plan, and it would have been successful should it not have been for the man in Reception or for the man standing in our room. Janet relayed the problem. Passed the phone to the man in our room, but the man from Reception had hung up. This was not going well.
The man in the room, Mohammed (?) called for back up, but when he turned up, he also didn’t speak any English. After playing with the lights, they said “Yes, yes” and left.

Clearly this whole farcical process wasn’t dealt with so we called Reception again, only to be told “One moment please.”
We were kept on hold for about four minutes and throughout this time I could hear the man on the other end breathing into the phone. I spent the majority of that time asking “Salem? Salem?” (Hello? Hello?) Janet took the phone to listen and when he finally came back to talk to us all he said was “Wake Up Call?" No! We don’t want a wake up call.
Enjoying a paddle in the Mediterranean Sea
We had a fire!

Not satisfied, Janet and I formulated our next plan, which was to go directly to Reception and try and get someone to take this fire matter seriously.
After clarifying that the man we were about to speak to at the front desk spoke English, we explained clearly and concisely what had occurred in our room. We mentioned the two men coming to our room but not understanding what they were looking for due to the language barrier, and we asked if our room could be checked out. I think this was the man we had spoken to on the phone as he did not understand and had to call over his manager.
The manager said we should go up to our room as he would send someone up to look into this for us, but he also assured us it was quite safe in our room. Really? Had he seen the flames?

We still were quite adamant that we wanted someone to look at this electrical board for us as it had just burst in flames for no reason and our room had a distinct electrical fire smell (which was further increased as the door to our balcony couldn’t open so we couldn’t get any ventilation into the room).
Chlaxing by the sea


Finally two other men turned up to Room 807 and checked our switchboard. Obviously I’m no expert, but I was a little apprehensive when the man began digging around the socket with his screwdriver and I almost passed out with shock when he pulled out one of the wires and it was alight. I had visions of calling Reception and them asking us if we needed a Wake Up Call, which, if the man had of electrocuted himself, probably a wake up call would have been useful. Of course I’m not sure how reliable that would have been.

So now we’re in Marsa Matruh, Egypt overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and we have a short 200 km drive to the Libyan border, which by all accounts will be a delightful experience as well. At least I have learnt one thing while being in Egypt … حريق (Nar)

Next time I write I’ll be Libyan it up in Libya.
اشوفك بعدين
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
In Alexandria with a cat I adopted…
In Alexandria with a cat I adopte…
Outside El Alamein War Cemetery
Outside El Alamein War Cemetery
The view from the chapel at El Ala…
The view from the chapel at El Al…
Remanent of the North African Camp…
Remanent of the North African Cam…
Enjoying a paddle in the Mediterra…
Enjoying a paddle in the Mediterr…
Chlaxing by the sea
Chlaxing by the sea
Marsa Matruh
photo by: Saskia007