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 Tutankhamun Exhibition Saatchi Gallery

I was lucky enough to visit the Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London on its opening weekend in November 2019.  It’s scheduled to be on in London until May 2020.  But given the current Coronavirus lockdown, I know its doors are very much closed right now.

So, just in case you missed it, here’s a selection of the photographs I took of this fabulous collection.  It’s on its last tour outside of Egypt before joining the other Tutankhamun treasures in the Grand Egyptian Museum, which was scheduled (finally) to open late this year, 2020.  Although, again, given the Coronavirus pandemic rampaging around the world this may – sadly – be yet again delayed.

A spectacular exhibition, to be sure !

Replica of burial chamber wall reliefs

   

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.

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.

    

 

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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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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