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.

    

 

Ramses’ Riches now published

Please click here to find out more or purchase

book 9 - v3On a mission to Egypt to retrace the steps of the great explorer Giovanni Belzoni, the next stop is Abu Simbel.  But Merry and friends have more reasons for wanting to make the trip down Lake Nasser than just to see The Great Temple of Ramses that Belzoni famously dug from the sand.

First, there’s the golden statuette of Helen of Troy apparently found there.  And second, the promise – on very good authority – of a stash of treasure.

Intrigued and mystified – as both are surely impossible – Merry sets sail to find out more.

This is the ninth book in my fiction series following Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt. The books are escapist fiction – adventure stories – set in the present day.  All have an ancient Egyptian mystery at their heart.

IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - CCThe first book in the series is Carter’s Conundrums.  It starts with Merry, on holiday in Egypt, getting trapped inside the Howard Carter Museum in Luxor, and making a discovery … This sets her off an a treasure hunt, and the adventure of a lifetime.

The books are aimed at adults who enjoy action, mystery and adventure stories.  And at anybody with at least a passing interest in ancient Egypt; its mysteries, treasures and enduring civilisation.

All books are available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon.  I do hope you enjoy them…

Fiona Deal

 

 

 

Nefertari’s Narrative Paperback

BookCoverPreview.doThe paperback version of Meredith Pink’s latest adventure in Egypt is now available on Amazon.  Nefertari’s Narrative takes Merry on a journey along the Nile where, of course, she gets caught up in another madcap mystery trying to discover what happened to an ancient set of stone tablets which seem to shed light on the origins of the beautiful Queen Nefertari.

As ever, things are not plain sailing for Merry.  A series of mishaps leave her wondering if things are quite what they seem, and whether she is the only one hoping to unlock secrets from Egypt’s ancient past.

This version of the paperback has the original style cover.  It will be available until end-January 2018 with this cover.  I’ll then update it with the new cover design.

I do hope you enjoy this latest Merry adventure.  If so please do leave a review on Amazon.  I also read and respond to all comments you leave here on my website.

The whole series of Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt, starting with Carter’s Conundrums, is available in both ebook and paperback on Amazon.

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Belzoni’s Bequest

belzonis-bequest-fiona-dealHere’s the new book cover for my latest novel in the Meredith Pink series, now available on Amazon.

Click here to learn more or to buy now.

Swapping the heat and dust of Egypt for the cooler climes of London, Merry and Adam find themselves caught up in an intrigue involving the Egyptian collection at the exalted British Museum.

First of all, an Egyptologist disappears in the midst of a security evacuation. Then Merry stumbles across a mystery suggesting the circus strongman Giovanni Belzoni and his wife discovered more than just tombs and temples during their excavations in the early 1800s.

A stolen journal, a set of newspaper-wrapped artefacts, and a blast from Adam’s past combine to make this a most perplexing mystery!

I hope you enjoy it. As ever, I welcome feedback and comments. I also read and appreciate all reviews on Amazon.

Fiona Deal, October 2016

Belzoni’s Bequest now published

BookCoverImageBook number 7 in the series following Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt is now published on Amazon.  For a limited period it will be available with the old-style cover design.  This is to enable anyone who was collecting the series before I updated the covers to have the new book in the same style as the others if they wish.  The new cover will replace this one at end-September.

Belzoni’s Bequest

Swapping the heat and dust of Egypt for the cooler climes of London, Merry and Adam find themselves caught up in an intrigue involving the Egyptian collection at the exalted British Museum.  

First of all, an Egyptologist disappears in the midst of a security evacuation.  Then Merry stumbles across a mystery suggesting the circus strongman Giovanni Belzoni and his wife discovered more than just tombs and temples during their excavations in Egypt in the early 1800s.  A stolen journal, a set of newspaper-wrapped artefacts, and a blast from Adam’s past combine to make this a most perplexing mystery!

As ever, I welcome feedback and comments here on my website.  I also read and very much appreciate all reviews on Amazon.

To find out more or download now please click here.  The book is also available in paperback.

I hope you enjoy Merry’s latest adventure … Fiona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refresh and Relaunch

“Fiona, your books are great fun to read … but your cover designs are doing you no favours.”  So I was told recently.  “Why don’t you update the jackets so they look like the fictional adventure stories they are?  At the moment they look like dull and boring history books!”

I’ve always believed it’s a good thing to respond positively to feedback.  So, here are the results.  I’ll let you judge for yourselves …

In my first book, Merry gets trapped in the Howard Carter Museum in Luxor, and finds some hidden hieroglyphics.  It sets her off on a madcap treasure hunt…

From this …       BookCoverPreview.do            To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - CC

In Merry’s second adventure, the hieroglyphics have led her to believe there may be precious jewels hidden in Egypt … If only she can find them before anyone else does …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do             To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - TT

In book 3, Merry has found the precious jewels … but can she protect them …?

From this …       Hatshepsut's_Hideawa_Cover_for_Kindle              To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - HH

Her fourth adventure finds Merry racing to find a Dead Sea Scroll, perhaps hidden by King Farouk before it can fall into the wrong hands …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do            To this …  IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - FF

In book 5, Merry is trying to stay one step ahead of a blackmailer intent on exposing her explosive secrets …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do            To this …  IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - AA

And her most recent adventure finds Merry on a quest to discover the inside track on “The Greatest Story Ever Told” – The Exodus …

From this …      BookCoverPreview.do            To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - SS

Hmm, I can completely see where the person was coming from …

Personally, I love them.  I hope you do, too.

Fiona Deal

 

Carter’s Conundrums

BookCoverPreview.doCarter’s Conundrums is the first book in my fictional series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.  It’s available  to download at the special promotional price of £0.99/ $1.50 here.

The books are present-day adventure stories.  Meredith (Merry) is a thoroughly modern heroine who gets caught up in ancient Egyptian mysteries.  No time travel, but in Carter’s Conundrums she embarks on a treasure hunt.

When English tourist Meredith Pink finds herself locked inadvertently in the Howard Carter museum in Luxor for the night, she has no idea about the thrilling Egyptian adventure she’s about to embark on.  The museum was once Howard Carter’s home, where he lived during the historic years of his discovery and clearance of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.  Attempting to break free, Merry accidentally smashes the frame surrounding an original Carter watercolour of an elusive Egyptian queen.  The discovery inside of a hidden message from Howard Carter himself, together with a set of mysterious hieroglyphics, sets her off on a quest to solve the puzzle of a lifetime. 

Along the way she teams up with the dashing Adam Tennyson, a self-proclaimed “thwarted” Egyptologist.  Together they set about unriddling the ancient texts, and find themselves on a madcap treasure hunt around some of Egypt’s most thrilling locations.  

An exciting blend of adventure, mystery and romance, Carter’s Conundrums will demand all of Merry’s imagination and love of the fabled ancient land of the pharaohs to keep her on the trail, and out of trouble.

Read the reviews here.

Fiona Deal – author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

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A Cook Abroad: in Egypt

Photo credit : BBC

Photo credit : BBC

At last ! A programme about Egypt to warm the heart – whet the appetite –  and hopefully encourage tourists to return.  On Monday evening BBC2 screened the first of six episodes in a new series called ‘A Cook Abroad’.

First up TV chef and one half of the Hairy Bikers travelled to Egypt to experience the nation’s culinary offerings, and explore a bit of its history.

Travelling from Cairo to Luxor via Fayoum by motorbike, and then on to Aswan aboard the steamship Sudan (the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile), Myers took time to visit many of the country’s historical sites along the way.

After sampling street food for breakfast in Cairo – a bean dish called ‘ful medames’ – Myers headed out to the pyramids at Giza to fulfil his boyhood dream of standing in their shadow.

But it was his trip to the ancient necropolis of Saqqara that really got him excited.  There, he enthused over the tomb wall paintings dating back more than 4,500 years depicting the baking of bread.  As Myers pointed out, this must surely count as the earliest recipe on record!

In the oasis of El Fayoum Myers enjoyed dates pulled freshly from the palm tree, then attempted (with little success but much hilarity) to emulate the skill of the fellahin’s wife in tossing her homemade bread atop an oven-dish that looked like a pizza pan, the idea being to make flat bread of pancake-like proportions.

In Luxor, Myers sampled a delicious-looking stuffed pigeon in a local restaurant before dressing up to board the steamship Sudan, where the chef taught him to make a local delicacy called um ali (a sweetened bread and butter pudding with hot milk).  But first, he visited the West Bank where he sampled shasmi bread with a local called Mahmoud.  He noted how the design Mahmoud’s wife baked into her bread was the same as on the loaves depicted in the ancient wall paintings in Deir el Medina, the Village of the Workers.  Great to see that some things haven’t been lost down the centuries.

To mark the end of his journey, Myers was invited by a family of Nubians for a feast to celebrate the end of Eid Al Adha, and help prepare a traditional meal to be shared with family, friends and neighbours.

For Myers, the star of the show was the home-baked Egyptian bread, in all its various forms.  For me, it was seeing the warm welcome he was given by all the Egyptian people he encountered.

All in all, it was a programme that left me longing to return.  I was even nostalgic for the haggling game, watching Myers enter some good-natured bartering with trinket sellers near the Colossi of Memnon.  I can only hope others watching the programme had their appetites similarly whetted.  Well done Dave Myers on showing us the delightful side of Egypt and its people.

Since Egyptian food in singularly absent from what’s on offer in the UK – as Myers pointed out,  “Where can you go for an ‘Egyptian’?” – the best bet is surely to visit the Land of the Pharaohs and sample it with the locals.

Fiona Deal – author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – available in paperback on Amazon or to download from Amazon or all major ebook sellers.

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Tutankhamun’s Death Mask damaged

ekwva5v7srjibrfg1skwIt just goes to show … fact can sometimes be stranger than fiction !  Yesterday, 22 January 2015, the story hit the world’s headlines that the famous death mask of Tutankhamun, on display at the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo, was allegedly damaged last year.  The blue plaited beard was apparently knocked off.  A botched repair job appears to have been undertaken to glue it back on with epoxy, leaving a discernible line of glue.  To make matters worse, it’s reported that attempts to scratch off the visible glue inflicted more damage.  There are conflicting reports about whether the damage was purely accidental, or whether the – detachable – beard was knocked off during cleaning.

A committee has now been set up to investigate exactly what happened.

Whatever the truth or real circumstances of what happened, this story raises all sorts of questions about the protection, care and preservation of Egypt’s ancient artefacts in the years since the revolution that removed Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

My series of novels following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt has many scenes set at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  A couple of my key fictional characters work there.  I suspect had I included something like accidental damage to Tutankhamun’s death mask as part of one of my stories, I’d have been told it was too far-fetched and could never happen.  These reports just go to show that truth really can be stranger than fiction !

We can only hope the investigation will get to the bottom of what really happened, and lessons will be learnt.

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – available on Amazon.

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Causeway of the Great Pyramid Found

underground-gateway-giza

Photo Credit : Ahram.org

Reading ‘Ancient Origins’ online, I see a report that after years of searching, the causeway for the Great Pyramid of Egypt has been found.

As is often the case, the facts read like something from a novel: a local resident living near the Giza Plateau was illegally digging beneath his home when he discovered a tunnel leading to the Pyramid of Khufu, the largest of the three pyramids in Giza.

Apparently a resident in the village of El Haraneya in Giza, a prohibited area for drilling, began digging beneath his house to a depth of about 10 meters.  He discovered a passage consisting of huge stone blocks.

reconstruction-of-the-pyramids-of-Giza-causeways

Artists impression showing pyramid causeways. Credit: Saint Anselm College

The Minister of Police for Tourism and Antiquities was alerted to the discovery (it’s not clear whether this was by the resident himself). Whatever, security forces immediately placed a cordon around his property.  An archaeologist was placed in charge of a committee to investigate. The committee’s report confirms the finding of the corridor leading to the Great Pyramid, the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in Giza.  It’s thought these causeways were covered corridors or passages linking each pyramid to its temple complex or maybe with the Nile.

How exciting!  I love it when new discoveries are made in Egypt.  As a writer of fiction, it’s a never-ending source of inspiration.

What became of the resident beneath whose home the causeway was found is not clear.  Perhaps I can somehow weave him into a story !

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

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My top 10 historical sites in Egypt

I’ve visited Egypt 11 times in total, since falling in love with it on my first visit with my parents in 1983.  Now I write a fictional adventure / mystery series set there : Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.  There are six books in the series so far.  Each is a modern adventure with an ancient Egyptian mystery at its heart.

As a frequent visitor to Egypt, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my favourite places to visit.  This list is my personal top 10, so feel free to disagree with me. I think I’ll do it as a countdown …

IMG_4517So, in at number 10. The stepped pyramid at Sakkara (or Saqqara as it’s sometimes spelled). My lead characters Merry and Adam take a trip to see the stepped pyramid in my first book Carter’s Conundrums. II was last at Sakkara in 2008.

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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 any Nile cruise itinerary. It’s the location of a scene in Hatshepsut’s Hideaway, the third book in my series.

Here I am outside the main pylon – March 2008.

 

IMG_4215At 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.

 

 

IMG_4505Number 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 my second book Tutankhamun’s Triumph.

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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.

 

 

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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 all of my novels.

 

 

scan0141Number 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.

Once used literally as a palace for King Fuad and King Farouk I used it as a location in both Carter’s Conundrums and Farouk’s Fancies.

 

DSCN5281So, 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 six books. Set dramatically against the craggy cliff face at Deir el Bahri, and backed by the Valley of the Kings, it’s rich with dramatic potential.

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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. As yet, I’ve perhaps not made as much of its dramatic potential as I could.  Merry and Adam go there to look at the obelisks in Carter’s Conundrums.

 

 

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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.

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So, there you have it. My personal top 10. I’ve not mentioned Luxor Temple, the Ramesseum, Denderah, Abydos – all equally awe-inspiring. … Great! Another reason to go back and loads more opportunities for book settings ! I guess maybe I should have done a top 20!

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, available to download or in paperback on Amazon.

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A frequent visitor to Egypt

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I’ve been asked recently if I live in Egypt as that’s where my fictional series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures is set.  I don’t.  But I’ve been a frequent visitor over the years.

I feel a strong sense of belonging, which is perhaps the next best thing to calling somewhere ‘home’.

IMG_4744My most recent trip was in July 2014, staying at the lovely Jolie Ville hotel, on its own island just outside Luxor.  This was my third trip to the Jolie Ville, which features as a location in the first three books in the series: Carter’s Conundrums, Tutankhamun’s Triumph and Hatshepsut’s Hideaway.  I also stayed there in 2011 (a few weeks after the Revolution) and 2009.  Tourism has been hit hard by the political upheaval of recent years.  In July 2014, I was one of only 24 guests at the hotel, which caters for something like 1,600.  Great for private use of the pool, but not for the staff who work so diligently to give guests a memorable stay. It’s tragic to see it like this, and I urge visitors to return.  I’ve always felt completely safe.

It’s fair to say in the last decade, I’ve been to Egypt almost every year; sometimes cruising the Nile, sometimes touring, and sometimes staying in either Luxor or Cairo.  To my way of looking at it, Egypt has everything: guaranteed sunshine and warmth, friendly people, great food and fascinating places to visit.  If you’re interested in ancient history or archaeology, so much the better.  Egypt is a place to capture the imagination and the heart.  I was hooked from my very first trip back in the mid-eighties when my parents took my brother and me for a half-term break one October.  We split our time between Cairo and Luxor and I remember I came home with my head spinning.

Now I write adventure/mystery stories based in Egypt.  So even when I’m unable to be there for real, I can travel there inside my head.  I hope the books enable my readers to experience the land I love so much too.

Fiona

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – ancient mysteries wrapped up in modern adventures.

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What lies beneath …?

Photo by Paolo Bondielli Min Project – Luxor Times

Published in the Luxor Times on 1 January, the first discovery in Egypt of 2015.  Found in Qurna, on the Nile close to Luxor, this is an Osirieon, a kind of God’s tomb, dedicated to Osiris.  It just goes to show how much still lies buried beneath the sands of Egypt, awaiting discovery.

As a fiction writer of an adventure/mystery series set in present-day Egypt, these continued discoveries are beyond thrilling.  My characters have been lucky enough to make a few discoveries of their own.  Some might say their ‘finds’ are far-fetched, and they’d probably be right.  My characters are not archaeologists or excavators.  Meredith (Merry) Pink starts her adventures in Egypt as a simple holidaymaker.  She counts herself fortunate when she meets a would-be Egyptologist who then introduces her to a professor who is the real thing, and can help her out with what she’s found.

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Carter’s Conundrums is Merry’s first adventure.  It’s the story of an accidental discovery that sheds new light on Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  And it poses a few questions about what else he might have found that the world wasn’t told about at the time…      Writing it, I gave myself the imaginary holiday of a lifetime!  I hope it does the same for my readers.

There are a further five books so far in the series.  In each one Merry plays a part in unlocking a secret from Egypt’s ancient past.  The series is a joy to write and all the time new discoveries are coming to light, I know there will be plenty more ancient Egyptian mysteries for Merry to explore.

All six books in the series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt are available to download or in paperback on Amazon.

Fiona Deal

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Exodus: Gods and Kings

BookCoverPreview.doMy latest novel in the series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt is called Seti’s Secret.  It is an adventure story set in modern-day Egypt but, as with the previous five novels in the series, it sets out to explore an ancient mystery.  For this book, I have chosen the Exodus story, proposing the historical identities of the Pharaoh as well as of Moses himself.

Publication of my book has coincided with Ridley Scott’s release of his Biblical film epic Exodus: Gods and Kings.  I went to see the film yesterday, interested to compare my take on ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ with Scott’s.

Since its release on Boxing Day, the movie has been banned in Egypt, Morocco and the UAE.  Egypt cites historical inaccuracies in the film, including depictions of the Jews building the pyramids and an earthquake causing the parting of the Red Sea.  Morocco has halted screenings because the film contains a “representation of God”, which is forbidden under Islamic Law.  The UAE has supported its decision saying the film contains religious inaccuracies about Islam as well as other religions, although it has not specified these inaccuracies.

I guess the movie-going public is arguably less concerned about historical and religious accuracy than it is about enjoyment.  I won’t comment on whether or not the film is enjoyable – that is for each person who sees it to decide.  I certainly found it epic, with sweeping vistas and grand stage sets – the plagues were particularly well depicted.  But as a writer, accuracy is something I have to be concerned with, and there are a few points I’d like to explore.

The opening title sequence tells us it is 1300 BCE (Before ‘Christian’ or ‘Common’ Era).  This places us in the latter years of the reign of Pharaoh Seti I, who appears briefly in the early scenes of the film as the elderly king about to pass on his throne. To be fair to Ridley Scott, I’m not sure he represented the Hebrew slaves as building THE pyramids.  True, the film shows workers constructing pyramids (in the sweeping panoramic shots of ancient Memphis) but I expect this is just for dramatic effect.  The Giza pyramids were built some 1000 years earlier during the Old Kingdom, presumably long before the Israelite sojourn in Egypt as described in the Bible; and before the 400 years Scott’s opening titles claim the Hebrews have been enslaved.  I guess it depends whether you’re prepared to accept that pyramids continued to be built in Egypt, even into the New Kingdom.

A more interesting historical inaccuracy for me was the scene showing Seti I’s funeral taking place at the Temple of Abu Simbel – another piece of grand cinematography – but factually impossible, since Abu Simbel wasn’t built at the time, and Seti I was interred in the Valley of the Kings.

If the film showed an earthquake parting the Red Sea, I missed it.  I saw Moses go to sleep asking for divine intervention, then wake to find the waters had miraculously drained away to allow the Hebrews to cross.  The special effects showing the seawater crashing back in again are among the most impressive in the film – although it is perhaps stretching credulity to the limit for both Moses and Ramses to survive the deluge, on their opposite banks of the Sea, given the on-screen violence of the Tsunami-like wave that engulfs the Egyptian army and both lead characters with it.

The Bible is oblique about whether or not the Pharaoh survives being cast into the sea.  The Torah is more specific in suggesting the Pharaoh drowns.

Which brings me to what I consider the crux of the historical matter.   Was Ramses II (Ramses the Great) the Pharaoh of the Exodus?  Ridley Scott apparently believes so, as did Cecil B DeMille before him, in his film The Ten Commandments.  Yet is there any historical evidence for his candidacy?

Ramses II ruled Egypt for upwards of sixty years.  His mummy is on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and is of a man in his nineties when he died.  So if he pursued the fleeing Israelites into the Red Sea he certainly survived it.

Interestingly, the Bible never names a Pharaoh.  So we are forced to look for other evidence in the Old Testament as well as in the historical and archaeological record to identify which Pharaoh is described.

The primary argument in support of Ramses II in the Exodus story seems to be that the Bible states the Pharaoh subjected the Hebrews to harsh labour building his store cities of Pithom (the location used in Scott’s film) and Ram’ses.  Ramses II certainly built a new capital city Pi-Ramses (or Piramesse).  Its remains have been discovered under the modern town of Qantir in the Eastern Delta, close to a branch of the Nile that silted up approximately 1,000 BCE.  Because Ramses built a city and named it for himself, hey presto he is the Pharaoh of the Biblical Exodus story.  That’s it.  That’s the evidence.

What is perhaps not so well known in popular culture is that Pi-Ramses was apparently built on top of the remains of an earlier city.  Historians have identified this as the Hyksos capital of Avaris and perhaps also the border city of Zarw, identified by some as Biblical Goshen, where the Hebrew tribes are said to have settled after their descent into Egypt.

If true, this enables us to construct a rather different scenario.  The historical record tells us that the grandfather of Ramses II, who ruled as Ramses I, was the Overseer of the Fortress of Zarw while still a commander in the previous Pharaoh’s army.  As he shares the name of his more famous grandson, I think it equally possible that he was the one who oversaw the daily lives of the Hebrews living in the place his grandson later decided on as the location for his new city.

The Bible also suggests the Pharaoh of the Exodus was not the same individual as the Pharaoh of the Oppression.  Exodus 3:6 describes Moses’ reluctance to return the Egypt to free the enslaved Hebrews after God speaks to him from the burning bush.  God reassures Moses that his life will not be in danger if he returns to Egypt as “all those who wished to kill you are dead”.  The earlier section (Exodus 1:8) tells us “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt”.  These passages suggest that during the years Moses spends in the wilderness, the previous pharaoh has died to be replaced by a new one. This would exclude Ramses II as being the Pharaoh to banish Moses and also the one on whom Moses unleashes the ten plagues.

There is more evidence, of course.  But, for now, I’ll end by saying if you’re interested in how the historical and archaeological evidence can be used to construct an alternative set of characters for the Exodus story, you may wish to read Seti’s Secret. (This is book 6 in a series, so I’d suggest you start with the first book Carter’s Conundrums).  The books are available on all Amazon sites.

As for the religious inaccuracies cited by the nations who have banned Ridley Scott’s film, I’ve decided they are the subject of a whole new article, which I will publish in the next couple of days.

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt