This list is my personal top 10, so feel free to disagree with me. I think I’ll do it as a countdown …
So, in at number 10. The stepped pyramid at Sakkara (or Saqqara as it’s sometimes spelled). Merry and Adam take a trip to see the stepped pyramid in Carter’s Conundrums. It’s where Merry has a revelation about what Howard Carter’s mysterious message might mean. I was last at Sakkara in 2008.
At number 9, the Temple of Edfu, probably the best preserved of all the ancient Egyptian temples. It dates from the Graeco-Roman period, and is included on the Nile cruise itinerary’s. It’s the location of a scene in Hatshepsut’s Hideaway.
Here I am outside the main pylon – March 2008.
At number 8, the Temple of Philae, near Aswan. It’s a lovely temple, also dating from the Graeco-Roman period, and dedicated to the goddess Isis. It was rescued by UNESCO as after the British dam was built in the early twentieth century it spent half the year under water. UNESCO moved it piece by piece to the nearby island of Agilika. Not yet used as a location in my books. Here I am in January 2012.
Number 7 is the pyramid and sphinx (not sure if it’s cheating to put them together) on the Giza plateau in Cairo. The pyramids tower over the surrounding suburbia. Merry sits near the swimming pool in Le Meridien hotel, gazing in awe at the pyramids in Tutankhamun’s Triumph.
At number 6, I’ll go for the Temple of Medinet Habu, built by Ramses III and located on the West Bank at Luxor. It’s not always included in the touring itineraries, but well worth an independent visit. The original colours are beautifully preserved.
Not yet used as a location in my books.
At number 5, The Valley of the Kings. A barren, desolate and rather forbidding place … once stuffed with enough gold to sink a battle ship, buried in the tombs of the dead pharaohs. It’s forbidden to take photographs nowadays – so here’s one of me taken back in 2004. The Valley of the Kings features prominently in Carter’s Conundrums.
Number 4, the wonderful Winter Palace hotel. I was lucky enough to stay here for New Year in 2008-9; the best New Year’s Eve ever! Frequented by both Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in the years leading up to the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun. I used it as a location in Carter’s Conundrums, where Merry and Adam spend a romantic evening.
So, to my personal top 3. At number 3 I think it has to be Hatshepsut’s Temple on the West Bank in Luxor. It features prominently in all three books. This is where Merry and Adam first meet (not counting the little encounter in the Luxor Museum). Built in honour of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, it rises on terraces to connect dramatically with the cliffs behind it.
At number 2, the complex of temples that make up Karnak. The Hypostyle Hall takes my breath away every time I go there. The temple is the largest religious structure ever built. Words are inadequate to the task of describing it. Merry and Adam go there to look at the obelisks in Carter’s Conundrums.
So, we’ve arrived at number 1. Personally, for sheer egotistical magnificence, I don’t think you can beat the temples of Abu Simbel, built by Ramses II. Yes, I’m cheating again. There are actually two temples… one for Ramses himself, and a smaller one for his great royal wife Nefertari. I walked around the latter with a lump in my throat – it’s exquisite. They’re also a marvel of modern engineering, raised to higher ground by UNESCO to escape the rising waters of Lake Nasser.
So, there you have it. My personal top 10. I’ve not mentioned Luxor Temple, the Ramesseum, Denderah – all equally awe-inspiring. There’s a major temple I’ve never visited, Abydos … great! Another reason to go back ! I guess maybe I should have done a top 20!