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.

Ancient Egypt is so OLD !

There are some mind-bending facts about ancient Egypt which challenge our concepts about time.  They help to demonstrate just what an incredibly long passage of time the Egyptian civilisation can claim.

UnknownFirst, Cleopatra lived closer in time to the building of Pizza Hut than the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Cleopatra ruled as the last Pharaoh at around 30BC, before Egypt fell to the Roman Empire.  The Great Pyramid was already approximately 2,500 years old, having been built for the pharaoh Khufu in the Old Kingdom of dynastic Egypt in circa 2560 BC.

UnknownThe first Pizza Hut opened in 1958, approximately 500 years closer in time to Cleopatra than Khufu’s pyramid.

I can’t help but wonder if Cleopatra’s knowledge and understanding of the reign of her Old Kingdom predecessor was much as ours is of her: coloured by myth and legend, and the passage of thousands of years.

Broadly contemporary with Cleopatra was the first century Romano-Jewish scholar and writer Josephus. As far as we know his work contains the only reference to the earlier Egyptian historian and priest, Manetho, who wrote his fabled Aegyptiaca some 300 years before Cleopatra ascended to the throne.  It gave a history and chronology of the pharaohs.  Whether it shed any more light on the historical facts of the dynasties that pre-dated Cleopatra’s Ptolomaic ancestry than Shakespeare did on Cleopatra’s own story is a matter for debate.

tm9The other fascinating fact is that the first pyramids were built while the woolly mammoth still roamed the earth.  A small population of mammoths survived until circa 1650 BC, by which time Egypt’s empire was well established, and the pyramids were already about a thousand years old.

It’s mind-bending stuff : how the Egyptian civilisation spans what we might consider almost prehistory, right up to the Roman Empire whose influence can still be felt in Britain today.

Perhaps this explains why ancient Egypt is such a rich source of inspiration for writers of fiction such as myself.  With a history spanning something like three thousand years, with so many famous names, and with so much gold, how can we help but be fascinated by its mystery and romance?  And with the inevitable gaps in our historical knowledge after such an immense passage of time, how tempting it is to try to fill in the blanks.

That’s what my fictional series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt aims to do.  In each story, I take an ancient mystery and weave a story around it, letting my imagination put the flesh on the bones of what we know from archaeology and historical research.

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.

Lighting the tombs

A photo of the Tombs of the Nobles, Luxor, Egypt.

Tombs of the Nobles. West Bank, Luxor, Egypt. Jan 2020.

One of the things that has always fascinated me during my visits to Egypt is the astonishing wall reliefs in the underground and rock cut tombs.  These days, they are lit with the help of electric bulbs.  But surely in ancient times these subterranean sepulchres were DARK !

But of course I should have realised this would present no difficulty whatsoever for the enterprising ancient Egyptians.  Let’s face it, they thought nothing of hauling enormous blocks of granite from one end of the country to the other, building gigantic pyramids that are still standing four-and-a-half thousand years later, and mummifying their dead to preserve them, quite literally, forever.

Even so, to carve and paint chambers hundreds of metres underground ? How did they do it ?  Well, here’s how …

Here is a short video clip showing yours truly with wonderful Waleed Mostafa, guide on my most recent trip to Egypt.  We’re in the tomb of Rekhmire, one of the Tombs of the Nobles.

Sadly, my modern video camera does rather too good of brightening the darkness to really give a good impression of how the ancients turned night to day underground.  But hopefully you get the basic idea !

If you’ve been to Egypt, you’ll know how blinding the sunlight is.  Apparently the kohl the ancient Egyptians wore around their eyes wasn’t just cosmetic.  It was an ancient form of sunglasses to reduce the fierce glare of the sun !

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.

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

The cover of the Fiona Deal book, 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.

Restoring Luxor Temple

Pylon of Luxor Temple Photo taken in 2004

I’ve been travelling to Egypt since I was sixteen.  I’ve witnessed it change through the years.  It’s wonderful to see the conservation, preservation and, in some cases, restoration of Egypt’s ancient monuments.

An example is Luxor Temple, set right in the heart of modern-day Luxor on the Corniche, the boulevard that borders the east bank of the Nile, with hotels strewn along its length.

Luxor Temple dates from circa 1400BC, a New Kingdom temple built under pharaohs such as Amenhotep III and Tutankhamun of the 18th Dynasty, and Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty. Unlike the other temples in Thebes, Luxor temple is not dedicated to a cult god or a deified version of the pharaoh in death. Instead, Luxor temple is dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship.  It may have been where many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned.

On my first few trips to Egypt the immense pylon (gateway / entranceway) to the massive temple boasted two enormous seated colossi of Ramses II and a single obelisk.  This was originally one of a pair.  Its twin stands in Paris at Le Place de la Concorde.

There used to be a shattered colossus of a once-standing Ramses II lying on the western side of the temple. And also a famous head-and-shoulders bust of this same king, set on a plinth on the eastern side of the entrance.

Head of Ramses II

 

I imagine tourists the world over who’ve visited the temple must have their own version of this photograph taken of me back in 2004.

So it was rather wonderful to visit in late 2018 (after a gap of almost 5 years) and see the incredible changes that had taken place.

 

Here is the pylon of Luxor Temple as it looks now.

 

Two standing statues have been reconstructed, one on either side of the seated colossus.

A fabulous feat of modern engineering to bring this fallen giant back from ruin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And imagine my surprise when I switched on the TV one Sunday evening a couple of weeks ago and saw a Channel 4 documentary which featured the restoration work to raise the fallen statue.  Here is Mahmoud Farouk, who leads the restoration team based in Luxor on photos I took of the television while the documentary was playing.  I even managed a tiny bit of video!

Now, I’m lucky enough to have met Mahmoud.  When I was last in Egypt over Christmas and New Year 2019-20, my guide introduced me to him, and I was very privileged to have him show me around a part of Karnak Temple usually closed to the public.  That’s one of the privileges of being able to tell people I write books set in Egypt !  Here we are together at Karnak.

 

It really is wonderful to see the work that he and his team are doing to clean and preserve the ancient monuments.

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.

Carter’s Conundrums

Carter’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, 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.

 

 

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.