In 2017, a young Polish woman by the name of Magdalena Zuk bought two tickets to Egypt, planning to surprise her boyfriend with a trip to the Red Sea resort town of Marsa Alam. It was supposed to be an exciting adventure, but unfortunately issues with his passport made the boyfriend ineligible for a visa. With a refund not an option, Zuk ended up going on the trip alone, arriving in Egypt on April 25. It should have been a wonderful experience, but shortly after she arrived there would be a series of strange events that would culminate in a stubborn unsolved mystery orbited by strange clues, conflicting information, and deep conspiracies.
During her stay at the resort, Zuk kept in regular contact with her boyfriend, but one of these calls would prove to be rather sinister. During one video call, she was in a state of hysterics, crying and seemingly very frightened. She was barely intelligible, but one thing she said stood out, when she blurted out between sobs, “They have all sorts of tricks here. I cannot say what happened. Take me away, please.” She also kept saying the letter “M” over and over again for reasons unknown. There then appeared a mysterious, dark-haired man, later identified as a resort tour guide named Mahmoud Khairy, who said “this conversation is a waste of time,” before ending the call. Luckily, the boyfriend was able to get in touch with her again, but she was unable or unwilling to explain what had happened during that video call, and he began immediate arrangements to get her out of Egypt.
In the meantime, Zuk began to spiral into ever more erratic, bizarre behavior. She sent messages to friends and family that she was hearing voices in her room at night, as well as cryptic messages to a friend saying “Where are you? Come to me.” Resort staff also said she was witnessed shouting on a lobby phone, as well as one time lying motionless on the floor in front of her room dressed in nothing but a bathrobe, as well as walking around making wild gesticulations with her arms and hands, and it seemed almost as if she were losing her mind. In addition to this, she was reported as being very paranoid, constantly looking over her shoulder and acting as if she were avoiding someone. Three days into her trip she had made her arrangements to leave the country, and a friend came from Poland for the purpose of helping her out, but this was where her behavior would catapult into the very weird indeed. At the airport, she reportedly suddenly undressed right there in front of everyone and appeared to be in a state of high agitation. This was enough to make the airline ban her from boarding the flight. Zuk was then taken to a hospital, where her strange odyssey would continue.
According to hospital staff, Zuk was extremely uncooperative and unpredictable. At the entrance she lay down and refused to get up, having to be physically carried onto the premises. Once in her room she began screaming and made several attempts to run and jump out the 2nd story window, to the point that she had to be physically restrained. She also lashed out at staff, kicking and punching, so she was kept tied to a bed in a private room away from other patients. Unfortunately for them, the room still had a window, and when a nurse untied Zuk to let her use the restroom, the delirious woman allegedly attacked the nurse and shot straight towards it to throw herself out of it. Zuk would fall two stories to land on some concrete steps, critically injuring her. She was rushed to a larger, better equipped hospital, but sadly died just hours later.
The news of this young, pretty tourist dying at this resort town was immediately all over the news, especially in Poland, where it was in the media nonstop, and there were various questions as to what had gone on. Why had she been acting so strangely and who was she apparently running from? What was the meaning of her call to her boyfriend, her cryptic messages, and who was that man who was seen? For their part, the hospital claimed that this had been a simple suicide and that she had had some sort of mental disturbance or psychotic break, and two separate autopsies also concluded that this was suicide, but there were plenty of people who did not buy this at all. For one, her family and boyfriend strongly denied that Zuk would have lost her mind like that without good reason, and in the Polish media, where it was all making heavy rounds, there were beginning to brew rumors of foul play, murder, sex trafficking, organized crime, and cover-ups.
There were some rather ominous clues surrounding all of this. One immediately suspicious detail was that the autopsies done on Zuk’s body were apparently not carried out for several days, and this helped contribute to the case being highly sensationalized in the Polish media, not helped one bit by the fact that Egyptian authorities were reportedly very opaque and evasive on it all. The media would go on to report all manner of strange new details, such as that she had been found in her room with mysterious head injuries, and once social media picked it up it all went even further into conspiracy theories, with one Polish reality show doing an entire lurid highly sensationalized expose on it, carried out by the TV detective Krzysztof Rutkowski. As the Polish media got whipped up into a fervor over it all, allegations ran from that Zuk had been raped, to that she had been forced into sex trafficking by the resort, and one reporter, Mira Poreba, would say of this, “The first two weeks were crazy. Everyone was making up their own stories and people were fighting on social media about them.”
There were also stories that Zuk’s boyfriend had been using her as a drug mule to Egypt and that she had been secretly working as a prostitute at his behest, which of course he denied and of which there is absolutely no evidence. Another was that she was connected to the Polish mob. One of the favorite stories going around was that Zuk had suffered her mental breakdown in response to having been gang raped at the resort, although there is no evidence of this, and indeed the autopsies specifically state that she was not raped, and most people agreed that she had been murdered. One idea was that she had been drugged, but again, the official autopsy reports do not support this. In the meantime, the man from the video call, Mahmoud Khairy, was questioned by police but found to not be a person of interest in the case, despite the fact that some witnesses described him as having “a reputation for attempting to drug women.” According to some accounts, he himself would vanish into thin air shortly after this. As all of this was going on, the resort itself and Egyptian authorities were trying to discreetly bury the whole incident, worried by what it could mean for their already embattled tourism industry. This of course only exacerbated the already swirling conspiracy theories.
We are left to wonder what really went on here. Why did Zuk exhibit such erratic, outlandish behavior before her hospitalization and death? Was it some sort of trauma, drugs, or what? Was this really foul play, and if so, why? Who was “M,” and what were the meaning of Zuk’s other strange messages? Was the Egyptian government or the resort engaging in some sort of cover-up? We may never know. While the mysterious case remains officially explained as suicide, the various strange details and the out-of-control conspiracy theories orbiting it all have ensured that this will probably never be a completely satisfactory answer for many. Either way, it is a tragic end for a young woman who had her whole future ahead of her, but had it cut short to be endlessly discussed and debated to this day by strangers.