Circumcision in ancient Egypt

I’m tempted to start this post by saying “please don’t try this at home”!

On a recent trip to Cairo, I explored the tombs around the ancient necropolis of Saqqara.  Here on the walls are carved reliefs showing the ancient practice of male circumcision.

These date from the Sixth Dynasty, and are dated to approximately 2,400 BCE.

Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BCE, wrote that the Egyptians “practise circumcision for the sake of cleanliness, considering it better to be cleanly than comely.”  Some say circumcision in ancient Egypt was a mark of passage from childhood to adulthood.

There are stories about it being a ritual practice carried out by priests on young men, using a sharp stone.  It appears that upwards of one hundred young men might have had their foreskins removed in a kind of mass event.

Here is a small home video of the carving I found on a tomb wall at Saqqara.

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.

A scene from Hatshepsut’s Hideaway

I recently visited Elephantine Island, located in the middle of the Nile at Aswan.  This is the site of ancient Egyptian ruins dating from the Old Kingdom onwards, with almost all the epochs of that ancient civilisation represented.

One of the best-preserved on the ancient ruins is the Temple of Satet, built in the early Eighteenth Dynasty under the female pharaoh Hatshepsut and her nephew/stepson and successor Thutmosis III.

It provides the location for a key scene in the third book in my Egyptian series, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway.

Here’s a short clip of me describing it …

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.

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.

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.

In a Parallel Universe

In a parallel universe – one in which the coronavirus COVID-19 is not rampaging around the world – I would be spending this Easter weekend in Cairo, Egypt.

As it happens, the bank holiday weekend weather here in the UK is glorious: warm and sunny.  So, with Britain (alongside much of the world) in lockdown, and with the sun shining, I am using my time productively.  This entails sitting in my back garden and reading everything I can lay my hands on about Ramses III.  For he shall be the historical subject of my next novel.  A man murdered by a conspiracy from within his own household, led by one of his queens.  Known as the Harem Conspiracy, his death marked the beginning of the end for the once mighty New Kingdom of Egypt – the so-called Empire period.

So, I am a millennia forward on the ancient Egyptian timeline this weekend than where I had anticipated being. The New Kingdom of ancient Egypt is the period in which all my books so far have been set.  It’s the time of almost all of the A’List Pharaohs: names such as Tutankhamun, Hatshepsut, Thutmosis (pick a number I – IV), Amenhotep (again, pick a number I – IV), Seti and Ramses.

Of those named Ramses, there numbered eleven in total.  Many sought to emulate, but none was able to recapture the might and majesty of Egypt under Ramses II – the Great.  After Ramses III (known as the last of the warrior pharaohs, and subject of Merry’s next adventure) who ruled approximately 50 years after his more famous forebear, came the long dying. Egypt would never regain its earlier New Kingdom glory.

But there had been an older glory.  The Old Kingdom.  The Pyramid Age. This was already a thousand years in the past when the Ramses ruled, its pyramids already considered tourist attractions.

I have not yet set one of Merry’s Egyptian adventures in the Old Kingdom – so maybe that will have to come. So, to remind me of what I am missing out on this Easter weekend and to perhaps provide some future inspiration, here are some pictures of what I would have been doing in my parallel universe before COVID- 19 took hold:

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

If you feel like travelling to Egypt this weekend, even if only from your back garden on armchair, you might want to join Merry on her adventures.  Please click on each picture for the link.  Happy Easter, and happy travels.

Another Merry Adventure

There’s nothing quite like a new Amazon review to help one get the writing mojo back:
L. Sheppard reviewed Carter’s Conundrums – Book 1 of Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt: a mystery of modern and ancient Egypt

 

Provocative 
Fiona, I was captivated, romanticised, inspired, thrilled and enlightened by the first instalment of Meredith Pink’s adventures. I read it during the first week of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown and can wholeheartedly say that you’re writing enabled me to disassociate from the stark reality and uncertainties that we as a world are currently facing. For this I am truly grateful – thank you.

So, thank you L. Sheppard, whoever you are. I am now determined to get back into the groove… and if it helps people escape the current awfulness, so much the better…

 

It’s been almost two years since my last published book – Ramses Riches – in the series following Merry’s adventures in Egypt.

 

I took on a whole new area of responsibility at work, which meant a very steep learning curve, and also embarked on a new personal relationship.  All of which rather shoved Merry into the background.

But she has more adventures in Egypt to share, and I am now ready to get going again…

There are nine books so far in the series following Merry’s adventures along the Nile.  I started writing them exactly eight years ago, just after Easter 2012.   So it is definitely time to get going again …

If you’re new to the series, here they are.  They are all available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions.