My own adventures in Egypt

Here I am aged 16  with the ram-headed sphinxes at Karnak.  It’s October 1983.  I’m on my very first trip to Egypt, courtesy of my dad working for an airline and qualifying for concessionary travel.

 

It took me almost thirty years to start writing adventure stories about the land of the pharaohs.  Yet the fascination was sparked back then.  And it’s never let up.

So I thought I’d indulge myself in a little trip down memory lane as it’s not possible to travel right now due to the Coronavirus lockdown.  Here are a selection of pics from each of the trips I’ve taken over the years.  These places have all inspired me, and many have provided locations for the action in my mystery/adventure series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.

Here I am in July 1996.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A furiously hot time of the year to go.  But I was a bit cash-strapped at the time, and mid-summer is low season in Egypt so it was affordable on my meagre budget.  Here I am again with Karnak’s ram-headed sphinxes.

 

June 2002.  Another photo opportunity with the ram-headed sphinxes at Karnak (it seems to be habit-forming!), and also in the Open Court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2004.  Another chance for a pic alongside the sphinxes at Karnak.  These ones are all crowded to one side of the Open Court.

 

 

And more sphinxes at Luxor Temple – human-headed this time. By this time I was reading everything I could lay my hands on about Egypt. Barbara Erskine was my book of choice on this trip.

 

 

2008 and I’m back again.  What can I say ?  Egypt exerts a magnetic pull on me.  But I’m yet to have the idea of writing about it.

I could afford something rather more special by now so this trip took me down Lake Nasser to see the mighty temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, up to Cairo to visit the pyramids and sphinx and then down the Nile, with stops in Luxor (more sphinxes) and at Edfu temple.

 

Back at the end of the same year, and surprised to find how chilly it is in winter despite the beautiful blue skies.  Here at Medinet Habu and Deir el Medina.  (The book I am writing right now – number 10 in the series – is unravelling the mystery of the murder of Ramses III, who built this fabulous temple.)

In 2009 and 2011 I holidayed in Luxor with my extended family.  I made friends with Ramses the camel at the lovely Jolie Ville hotel.  Also snapped here at the Ramesseum, in Karnak’s Hypostyle Hall and outside Howard Carter’s house (which is where Merry’s adventures begin).  By now I’d discovered the wonderful books by Elizabeth Peters and the idea of writing novels of my own about Egypt was starting to form.

 

2012 and I’m back for a Nile cruise with my parents.  We visited in January, and I started writing Carter’s Conundrums at Easter.  Yes, you guessed it !  Here I am with some sphinxes !

 

2013 and back again, now writing Farouk’s Fancies and seeing it as a research trip.  Not my happiest visit, this one.  But regardless of what might be going on personally, Egypt never fails to impress and inspire.

Fast forward a few years and here I am in 2018, a Nile cruise this time.  Didn’t seem right not to include the pic with the sphinxes !

 

 

 

 

And so we are up to date and my self-indulgent reminiscences are nearly over.  Last year I was lucky enough to travel to Cairo twice, both times for a long weekend – just enough time to cram in the sights.  And then a wonderful 2-week idyll over Christmas and New Year.  Sitting on my hotel balcony in Luxor on New Year’s Eve, I could never have imagined what 2020 would have in store: travel restrictions the world over.  So, thank God for photos and memories.  And for writing !  Now Merry is embarked on her latest adventure I can journey to Luxor in my imagination whenever I choose.

And, to finish where I started, here I am with the ram-headed sphinxes at Karnak, not quite sweet 16 anymore, but still just as enraptured as I was on that very first visit.

 

So you see, when I was a teenager, Egypt reached out and grabbed me.  More than thirty-five years later it shows no sign of letting go.

Fiona Deal, Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, fiction books all available on Amazon. To join Merry on her adventures please click on each picture for the link.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Carter's Conundrums

Cover of  Carter’s Conundrums. Book 1 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Tutankhamun’s Triumph.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Tutankhamun’s Triumph. Book 2 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway. Book 3 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Farouk’s Fancies.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Farouk’s Fancies. Book 4 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Akhenaten’s Alibi.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Akhenaten’s Alibi. Book 5 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Seti’s Secret.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Seti’s Secret. Book 6 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Belzoni’s Bequest.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Belzoni’s Bequest. Book 7 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Nefertari’s Narrative.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Nefertari’s Narrative. Book 8 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

An image of the cover of the Fiona Deal book, Ramses’ Riches.

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, Ramses’ Riches. Book 9 in the series, Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.

Travel during Lockdown

Right now much of the world is in lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the planet.

But, to my way of looking at it, we can still travel.  Just not literally (by which I mean physically).

But we can read books set in far-flung places.  I can pick up Alexander McCall Smith’s wonderful series about the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency and be immediately transported to Botswana.  It’s a country that remains on my bucket list but, even so, I feel as if I’ve been there.

 

In the same way, I hope my series following Meredith Pink on her adventures in Egypt can mentally take readers to the heat, light, dust and magic of the Land of the Pharaohs.  Here’s the first couple of lines to whet your appetite:  “At first, when I found myself locked in Howard Carter’s house for the night, I thought it must be an elaborate prank.  A little later, when I smashed one of his pictures, I stopped seeing the funny side.”

We can also look at pictures and photographs to remind ourselves of the wonders of far flung places we might long to travel to.  Here are a few of my favourites taken on my travels in Egypt:

Feluccas on the Nile – Aswan

The Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel

Elephantine Island, Aswan

The Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan

Elephantine Island, Aswan

Elephantine Island, Aswan

Temple of Isis, Philae

Kiosk of Trajan, Philae

Philae Temples

The Nile

Obelisk at Karnak Temple

Rebuilt Pylon at Karnak Temple

Medinet Habu

Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple

Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple

Denderah Temple of Hathor

Egyptian sunset

The Open Court – Karnak

Hypostyle Hall, Karnak

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Mortuary Temple of Seti I

Ramesseum

Ramesseum

Fallen colossus at the Ramesseum

Colossi of Memnon

The Winter Palace Hotel, Luxor

Fiona Deal, Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon.

To join Merry on her adventures please click on each picture for the link.

The trouble with writing contemporary fiction

Hi, I’m Fiona Deal, author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon.  My books follow the adventures of my thoroughly modern heroine Merry as she unlocks secrets from Egypt’s ancient past and unravels centuries’ old mysteries.

I started writing the books back in 2012 and decided to set them in the present day.  There are now nine books in the series, and I’m embarking on my tenth.

Deciding to make the books contemporary (rather than historical) fiction has been both a blessing and a curse.

I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt since I was a child, so researching its pharaonic history to provide the mysteries for my novels has always been a pleasure and never felt like hard work.  But to actually set my books in ancient Egypt ?  Well, that felt like a leap too far.  I wanted my characters to experience Egypt the way I do.  Part of the joy of writing them has been imagining myself into Merry’s shoes, and living her adventures along with her.  And hoping that my readers might do the same.

But it’s meant I’ve had to stay true to events in Egypt and around the world as they’ve unfolded.  When I started writing the series in April 2012, a little over a year after the Arab Spring I could never have imagined the political turmoil that would topple President Mohamed Morsi (Egypt’s first democratically elected president) from office just a year or so later.  Nor the terrorist atrocities that would rock its tourist industry.  And now we have the lockdown of the Coronavirus around the world. So travel to the Nile Valley (or anywhere else for that matter) is off-limits.

I’ve had to negotiate my way around these obstacles and – wherever possible – weave them into my stories.  All of which rather makes me wonder if my decision to write modern stories was the right one after all.

Lucky for me, I do have a couple of years to play with.  There’s an advantage to having been so deeply distracted by events in my own life recently.  These have included taking on a whole new remit at work, and also a new relationship.

Merry’s last adventure took place in early 2017 when tourism to Egypt was just starting to pick up.  (She herself may have had a small part to play in all that !!)  So I can let her plunge headfirst into some new adventures while also bringing her up-to-date.  And maybe Merry can somehow escape the Coronavirus-related restrictions altogether.

For the rest of us the options right now are more limited. I was lucky enough to visit Cairo twice last year.  And I spent two weeks over Christmas and New Year 2019-20 in Egypt exploring the sites of Aswan and Luxor, with a short Nile cruise thrown in for good measure.  But sadly my trip to Cairo scheduled for the 2020 Easter weekend became a Coronavirus casualty.

But on the upside… since world travel is impossible right now, it leaves only the opportunity of exploring foreign parts vicariously: through TV, films, books and online.  Speaking for myself, this means throwing myself into writing Merry’s latest adventure.  So I can take myself off to Egypt in my imagination and experience its sights and sounds, the dust and the heat and the wonder of its ancient monuments.

If you feel like travelling to Egypt right now, even if only from your armchair, you might want to join Merry on her adventures.  Please click on each picture for the link.  Happy travels.

Three Grande Dames

Egypt has some fabulous historic hotels.  The picture is of a fantastic book which tells the story of these amazing hostelries in their heyday.  But they’re still fantastic places to stay for those travelling to Egypt.

 

Three of these great historic hotels in particular stand out to me. They have each provided settings for some key scenes in my adventure/mystery fiction series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt. These three hotels also benefit from being located in the some of the best cities, north, middle and south in Egypt, great for any traveller wishing to do a grand Egyptian tour.

I’m lucky enough to have stayed in all three.  So I thought I’d share some images of these three historic Egyptian Grande Dames.  The pictures may bring back memories for some of you.  If you’ve never been to Egypt but you’ve read my books then hopefully they’ll help bring some of the settings to life.  And if you have Egypt on your bucket list, might I encourage you to consider putting these on your list of accommodation options ?

I have to start with the wonderful Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor.  As so many of my novels are set in Luxor, I’ve used this beautiful Victorian hotel for key scenes in a number of my books.  Merry and Adam contrive to spend a night there in Carter’s Conundrums (book 1), and the hotel is central to a number of key scenes in Farouk’s Fancies (book 4).

 

The Winter Palace is a historic British colonial-era 5-star luxury resort hotel located on the banks of Corniche in Luxor overlooking the Nile.  It has fabulous views from the rooms at the front of the hotel across to the Theban Hills on the West Bank.  Great for watching the sunset.  At the back, extensive botanical-like gardens lead to a large pool, with a terrace bar and restaurant.

 

 

Next is the fabulous Mena House hotel in Cairo, situated right at the foot of the Giza pyramid plateau, literally a short walk to the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx.  My characters stay at the Mena House while riddling their way through a set of clues in Carter’s Conundrums (book 1).  They also enjoy the hotel’s lavish hospitality during the uprisings surrounding the ousting of President Morsi in Akhenaten’s Alibi (book 5)

Originally a Khedive hunting lodge in 1869, it opened as a hotel in 1886 and was the first Egyptian hotel to boast a swimming pool which opened in 1890.  It was also the first hotel with a golf course, literally built in the desert at the foot of the pyramids.  Golfers can still play a round there today.

And last but by no means least is the stylish Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan.  While my characters have never actually booked in for the night, they’ve enjoyed lunch on the hotel’s famous terrace with its stunning view of the Nile and Elephantine Island in Hatshepsut’s Hideaway (book 3)

The Old Cataract was built in 1899 by Thomas Cook for European travellers to Egypt.  Built on a granite buff overlooking the Nile, it still has its original restaurant showing fabulous Moorish architectural design.

I hope these photographs have given you a flavour of the wonderful welcome that awaits visitors at these great Egyptian hotels.  And that they’ve brought to life some of the settings for my books.

Fiona Deal, Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon. To join Merry on her adventures please click on each picture for the link.

The Jolie Ville hotel, Luxor (setting for 3 of my books)

The Jolie Ville hotel is a perfect place to unwind and relax.  It’s set on its own island in the Nile – King’s Island – a ten minute drive from central Luxor.  Currently ranked 9th of 63 hotels in Luxor on TripAdvisor.

Sadly right now it’s off limits and unable to welcome holidaymakers drawn by its fabulous botanical-like gardens, vast swimming pools and dreamy view of the Nile.  So while the Coronavirus lockdown is in place in so much of the world, those of you who, like me, love to travel in your imagination, might like a little look at where my central character Meredith Pink was staying when she embarked on her adventures in Egypt.

The Jolie Ville hotel really is the most magical place to stay.  These photographs bring it all flooding back, and remind me to book to go back just as soon as I possibly can.

Merry is on a “time out” holiday after taking voluntary redundancy from her job when she stays there. She couldn’t have imagined the thrilling escapades she was about to embark upon, unlocking mysteries from ancient Egypt.

Here are links (just click the picture) to the first three books, all based at this wonderful hotel – although Merry’s adventures take her all over Egypt.

 

 

Speaking of Inspiration…

I posted recently about the amazing author Elizabeth Peters and what an inspiration her Egypt-based Amelia Peabody series was to me.

My fascination with Egypt was sparked as a teenager when my parents took my brother and me on a half-term break to Egypt: a flying visit to Cairo and Luxor.  I think it’s fair to say that once Egypt grabbed hold of me it never let me go.   It’s become a lifelong fascination.

And I know I’m not alone.  One only has to look at the Egyptian galleries in the major museums of the world, always thronged with people.  The Metropolitan in New York, Le Louvre in Paris, the amazing Museo Egizio in Turin and of course our own British Museum.

Here I am outside the Egyptian Museum in Turin:

Switch on the TV on almost any night, skim through the channels and you’re bound to come across Egypt-themed documentaries.

But I thought I’d use this short post to highlight a few other amazing sources of inspiration for my Egyptian mystery adventure series.

Starting of course with the magnificent Agatha Christie – apparently only outsold by Shakespeare and the Bible !!  Her book Death on the Nile has been made into films that I watch over and over – capturing the romance of cruising along the Nile, and shot on location at some of my favourite hotels and historical sites.

And I’m excited to say it looks as if a new dramatisation is scheduled for movie release later in 2020, with Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot (reprising the role he took in Murder on the Orient Express a couple of years ago).  I can only hope the Coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the world doesn’t put this on hold for too long.

 

But my greatest source of inspiration of all has to be the box-set documentary-drama “EGYPT” produced by the BBC in 2005.  I’ve watched these over and over.  They tell the stories of Howard Cater’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb (inspiration for my first three novels), Giovanni Belzoni’s remarkable discoveries along the Nile (inspiration for books 7-9) and Jean-Francois Champollion’s decipherment of the hieroglyphic language (also drawn on in books 7-9).  I love the format which manages to combine history with drama to tell the story and bring the characters to life.

And this is just to skim the surface.  If I listed all the books – fact and fiction – that have inspired me, I’d be here all day. Instead, I have writing of my own to do.  I’m underway with book 10 in my series, set in Luxor and inspired by the murder mystery surrounding the death of the last warrior pharaoh Ramses III.

Fiona Deal, Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon.  If you’re interested in joining Merry on her adventures please click on each picture for the link. Happy travels!

My inspiration: Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series

Hi, I’m Fiona Deal, author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon.

In a recent post I wrote about the challenges of deciding to set my Egyptian mystery adventure series in modern times. I wanted to write the books as if I were experiencing them myself, on a tourist holiday caught up in the adventure of a lifetime. They were conceived as modern escapist fiction, something to read on the commute (in my case) into London, or perhaps on a sun lounger on holiday.

They were also written to fill a huge gap. Back in 2008 (and purely by chance on an Amazon search for novels about Egypt) I stumbled across the Amelia Peabody series written by the wonderful Elizabeth Peters.  This is a writing pseudonym for the prolific Barbara Mertz, who also happened to be an Egyptologist.  Here are her first three (of eighteen) books in the series:

I came to the Amelia Peabody books pretty late on as they were first published in the 1980s.  By the time I discovered them their author was already in her nineties, although still writing.  To say I devoured them would be the understatement of the century.  A fabulous series of books, they differ from mine in being essentially murder mysteries and also set in Victorian times. But, like mine, they are (mostly) set in Egypt and draw from its glorious ancient past.

Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody stories were a massive inspiration for me.  And the void they left when I realised there would be no more was part of what inspired me to write an Egyptian-based series of my own.

I don’t claim to have the Egyptological credentials nor the writing pedigree of Elizabeth Peters (AKA Barbara Mertz) – she published vast numbers of books across different genres and under different pseudonyms.  But I do always take it as the most enormous compliment when I receive a review (and there have been a few) which liken my books to hers, and say I have gone some way towards filling a gap in their reading lives too.

So, thank you to Elizabeth Peters for bringing me the joy of Amelia Peabody and her wonderful family and hangers-on.  She was truly an inspiration.

If you’re locked down in the current Coronavirus crisis and feel like travelling to Egypt, even if only from your armchair, might I encourage you to read the Amelia Peabody series.  Or you might want to join my Merry on her adventures.  Please click on each picture for the link.  Happy travels.