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.

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.

Howard Carter’s House

 

Hi, I’m the author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, a mystery/adventure series set in the present day, but all with an ancient Egyptian mystery at their heart.  There are nine books in the series so far.  The first starts with English tourist Merry being inadvertently locked inside the Howard Carter Museum (once his house) near the Valley of the Kings.  Trying to escape, she accidentally smashes a picture frame. Inside, she finds a coded message which sets her off on a madcap treasure hunt around some of Egypt’s most iconic sites.

Here are a few photographs of where it all started: inside Howard Carter’s house, now fabulously presented as a museum.  It evokes the rather austere living arrangements of a 1920s excavator and archaeologist.

This is the desk Merry falls onto while trying to climb up and release the bolts on the window shutters. (Me wearing Howard Carter’s hat – although I doubt its the real one!)

 

This is the bed Merry scoots under to rescue her bangle which has slipped off her wrist.  The guard doesn’t see her when he does his last check before locking up, which is how she comes to get locked in for the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Speaking of Inspiration…

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

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

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

Here I am outside the Egyptian Museum in Turin:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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.

    

 

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

BookCoverPreview.doBookCoverPreview.doHatshepsut's_Hideawa_Cover_for_KindleBookCoverPreview.doBookCoverPreview.doBookCoverPreview.do

Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered

Last night I watched the hour long BBC1 documentary called ‘Tutankhamun : The Truth Uncovered’.

It set out to present clues as to why the most famous Egyptian Pharaoh of them all died so young.  The theory of murder due to a blow to the head was debunked.  Actually, it was debunked years ago … the bone fragments shown by X-ray to be floating in the back of the boy king’s skull were proved to have been displaced post mortem and also after the embalming process.

The programme showed us a ‘virtual autopsy’ using more that 2,000 CT scans of Tutankhamun’s mummified body.  This remarkable technology has enabled scientists to reveal the first ever full-sized, scientifically accurate computer generated image of the young king.  Sadly, it is a far cry from the hauntingly beautiful and perfect image we are more used to from the glorious death mask and much of the other artwork and statuary surviving of Tut from antiquity.

It reveals the club foot, which explains once and for all why so many walking canes – over 120 of them – were found by Howard Carter when he entered Tutankhamun’s tomb. I can’t help but wonder if seeing ‘the truth uncovered’ might actually be a little less than Tutankhamun deserves.  We come face to face with a teenager who might now unkindly, but no doubt accurately, be referred to as a cripple.  I’m sure he’d have preferred the images of himself riding his chariot, full of youthful vigour to be the ones to survive him down the centuries.

And with mention of the chariot (there were six of them found dis-assembled in Tutankhamun’s tomb) we come to the next popular theory explaining his early death. The CT scan reveals the fracture above his knee, which experts believe to have killed him.  A long-held theory is that the fracture was caused by a fall from his chariot whilst out hunting, or perhaps even in battle. (Or maybe he was pushed?).  But last night’s documentary suggests it would have been almost impossible for the young king to ride at any speed in a one-man chariot.  Or indeed ride a chariot at all.  The club foot and bone wasting disease shown also to be affecting his left foot would, we are told, have made it excruciatingly painful to ride.

And so, another explanation has to be found.  It is not slow in coming.  Epilepsy.

This condition, we are told, may also account for the ‘visions’ experienced by Tutankhamun’s predecessors.  His great-grandfather, Thutmosis IV, recorded in the famous ‘dream stele’ (still situated between the paws of the Sphinx) the vision in which the Sphinx spoke to him and told him if Thutmosis cleared the sand from around the Sphinx’s body, he would be crowned king.  And, Akhenaten, the controversial pharaoh who preceded Tutankhamun was apparently given to religious visions, which led him to elevate the sun disc, the Aten, as the sole god from the Egyptian Pantheon.  They also led him to build a new city, modern Amarna, on virgin soil in middle Egypt.

And now, with the mention of Akhenaten, we come to the part where I take issue with last night’s documentary.  DNA testing has enabled scientists and Egyptologists to build Tutankhamun’s family tree.  This has established that the body found in tomb KV55 is Tut’s father, and the ‘younger lady’ found in the cache hidden inside Amenhotep II’s tomb is Tut’s mother.  More astonishing, Tutankhamun is shown to be the product of an incestuous full-brother-and-sister relationship.

This much, I believe, is irrefutable.  It seems to me tragic that in their attempts to keep the royal bloodline pure, the pharaohs of the late 18th dynasty actually inbred its genetic downfall.

BUT, the documentary makes one big and, to my way of looking at it, unsupportable assumption … That the KV55 mummy is Akhenaten.  Ergo Akhenaten is Tutankhamun’s father.  This is presented as FACT, with no questions asked.

This does the viewing public a huge disservice.  While Akhenaten is unquestionably one candidate as the KV55 mummy, he is not the only one.  Many scholars believe the skeleton to be that of Akhenaten’s younger brother, an ephemeral character on the pharaonic stage.  His name was Smenkhkare.  Nobody has ever been able to prove the identity of the KV55 mummy for sure.  So, for the BBC to overlook this and present Akhenaten as the sole candidate seems to me to be misleading and negligent.

We know Akhenaten was famously married to Nefertiti.  They very publicly had six daughters.  Images of the whole family are plastered all over Amarna.  Nobody has yet gone so far as to suggest the ‘younger lady’ is Nefertiti, or that she was Akhenaten’s full sister.  So, we must suppose that Akhenaten had an incestuous relationship with one of his full sisters, who bore Tutankhamun.  Under the royal protocol of the time, she would have had to be one of his wives, possibly even his Great Royal Wife.  For this to have completely escaped the historical record seems to me extremely unlikely.

Yet, if his younger brother Smenkhkare were to have had an incestuous marriage with one of their sisters, with Tutankhamun as the result, it seems perfectly possible for no record of it to have survived.

I personally believe Smenkhkare is the KV55 mummy.  Other scholars agree.  One other piece of evidence supports this theory.  On last night’s documentary, Tutankhamun was repeatedly described as Akhenaten’s successor.  He wasn’t. At least, not at first.  The historical record shows quite clearly that Smenkhkare came to the throne on Akhenaten’s death.  Incidentally, Smenkhkare married Akhenaten & Nefertiti’s eldest daughter, his niece Meritaten, presumably to strengthen his right to rule.  She became his Great Royal Wife.  Whether his previous sister-wife was still alive at the time is a matter for conjecture.

It is not clear how long Smenkhkare ruled.  Some experts say a few months, others up to three years.  But rule he did.

To me, this is more evidence that Tutankhamun was not Akhenaten’s son.  There are plenty of other examples of minors coming to the throne, so his age would not have presented a reason for him to be passed over in favour of his ‘uncle’ Smenkhkare if indeed Akhenaten was his father.  I think in the absence of a male heir who was his son, the throne passed to Akhenaten’s brother and only then on Smenkhare’s death to his son, Tutankhamun.

Frustratingly, none of this can be proved once and for all.  We need more discoveries to be made in the historical record, or for modern science to take yet another leap forward.

I’m left with the impression of a documentary wanting to re-work old ‘truths’ to find a new angle.  I’d have been perfectly happy with this, if only certain assumptions were not presented as fact.

Luckily for me, there is one field in which it’s more acceptable to work within what’s known, and make up the rest.  I am a fiction writer.  The mysteries of ancient Egypt are my chosen subject.  So last night’s documentary was of particular interest.  I’m pleased to say, it didn’t present anything to make me go back and rewrite any of the content of my books.  The second book in my series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt is Tutankhamun’s Triumph.  If you’re interested in reading more about Tut’s family tree, you may wish to give it a go.

Fiona Deal

Author of Carter’s Conundrums, Tutankhamun’s Triumph, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway, Farouk’s Fancies and Akhenaten’s Alibi. Available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and all other Amazon sites.

BookCoverPreview.do

 

Book 2 of Meredith Pink's adventures in Egypt

Book 2 of Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt

Hatshepsut's_Hideawa_Cover_for_Kindle BookCoverPreview.do

BookCoverPreview.do

 

Howard Carter’s Legacy Lives on…

carterHoward Carter died seventy-five years ago on 2 March 1939.  His death went largely unremarked.  This is fairly extraordinary considering Carter was the man responsible for making arguably the most important archaeological discovery ever … the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun, dating from the 14th century BC.

UnknownIt seems astonishing to me that such a spectacular find should earn no accolade at all for its discoverer.  Howard Carter lies buried in an unremarkable grave in a Putney Vale cemetery in London.  Only the words on his grave stone give any clue to the love of Egypt, Egyptology and his world-famous discovery…

Howard Carter,

Egyptologist,

Discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun 1922

“May your spirit live, may you spend millions of years, you who love Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind, your eyes beholding happiness.”

It’s hardly the most lavish epitaph!

So, why the lack of recognition?  All Carter earned during his lifetime was an honorary doctorate from an American university.  In his own country; nothing.

Carter had a reputation as an irascible man, pig-headed, stubborn and intractable.  He rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy (notably his patron and sponsor the Earl of Carnarvon) yet wasn’t one of them.  Perhaps an incident early in his career in Egypt cast a long shadow. It became known as the Saqqara Affair.  Carter committed career suicide, refusing to apologise to the authorities over an incident where he forcibly ejected a group of rowdy and drunk young Frenchmen from the site of the famous stepped pyramid.  Carter resigned over the incident, halting a hitherto promising career, and entered what have become known as his ‘wilderness years’.  He scratched a living as an artist and antiquities dealer before being recommended as an excavator to Carnarvon.

The rest, as they say, is history.  But Carter’s temper continued to be his Achilles heel.  After Carnarvon’s untimely death just 5 months after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, Carter once again exploded. This time it was over the refusal of the Egyptian Authorities to allow the wives of the excavation team a private viewing of the tomb.  Carter downed tools and took himself off on a lecture tour of America.

But perhaps more damning were the rumours that started to circulate while he was away that Carter was misappropriating items from the tomb.  A lotus flower head of the boy king was found inside a Fortnum & Mason wine case.  Carter said he’d stored it there for safekeeping until it could be properly conserved.  His explanation was accepted without question, but I wonder if the powers that be were really convinced …?

Whatever, the recognition he might have expected as arguably the most famous excavator of all time never materialised.

Carter returned to England in 1935, having taken 10 years to clear the tomb.  He continued to deal in antiquities for many of the major museums of the world – perhaps considered a dodgy profession…?  He died, aged 65, of lymphoma.

But perhaps the action that meant he could never earn the recognition he deserved was his alleged unauthorised break-in to the tomb the night before its official opening in November 1922.  It’s never been proven, but it’s now achieved the status of something of an open secret.  Carter and Carnarvon, together with Carnarvon’s daughter and their friend Pecky Callender, are said to have broken into both the outer chamber and the burial chamber of the tomb.

I think, if true, it’s hard to blame them.  Which of us can honestly say we could have resisted the temptation after such a long search?

Whatever, rumours of wrong-doing seem to have dogged Carter’s footsteps – and his memory.

Book 1 of Meredith Pink's Adventures in Egypt

Book 1 of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

These provide fertile soil for a writer of fiction, such as myself.  In the first book in my series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, my heroine finds herself caught up in a mystery that draws heavily on the conduct and character of Howard Carter.

So, despite the lack of any public recognition, I’d like to remember the seventy-fifth anniversary of his death, and thank Howard Carter for his legacy.  It was gawping at the Tutankhamun treasures in the Cairo museum as a teenager that sparked my enduring fascination for ancient Egypt … and perhaps that’s when my desire to write was first born.  So, thank you, Mr Carter … your legacy lives on …

Fiona Deal

Author of Carter’s Conundrums, Tutankhamun’s Triumph, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway and Farouk’s Fancies

Places to stay in Egypt – great book locations

Jolie Ville Kings Island

Jolie Ville Kings Island (Photo credit: iifu)

I have now completed three novels set in Egypt and am approximately two-thirds of the way through the fourth.  My central character, Merry, is a tourist to Egypt and starts her series of madcap adventures in Carter’s Conundrums while staying at the Jolie Ville hotel, which is situated on Kings Island, just outside Luxor.  I’ve been lucky enough to stay at the delightful Joilie Ville twice, in 2009 and 2011.  The sunsets looking across the Nile are the most spectacular I’ve seen anywhere in the world.IMG_2749

IMG_4496Merry also gets the chance to stay in two of Egypt’s finest old hotels – both world class – both dating from Victorian times.  The first is the Mena House, once a Khedive hunting lodge built at Giza, a stone’s throw from the foot of the pyramid plateau.  Here’s a snap of me taken in 2008 in the Mena House garden, with the pyramids in the background.  It was a hazy day, but you get the general idea of how close they are.

IMG_4557The second of these grand Victorian hostelries is the impressive Winter Palace in Luxor.  This is where Lord Carnarvon stayed during the heady days of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by his excavator, Howard Carter.  I don’t imagine it’s changed much since then.  It makes a wonderful setting for a novel.  I’m also setting chunks of my latest novel, Farouk’s Fancies there – to be published this summer.  It’s no coincidence that King Farouk, the last sovereign of Egypt – who was deposed in the 1950’s an exiled to Europe – once used The Winter Palace as his home in Luxor.

IMG_1094While Carter’s Conundrums and Tutankhamun’s Triumph are both set at the Jolie Ville hotel, the third book, Hatshepsut’s Hideaway, takes Merry on a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan and back for her latest adventure.  I chose as my setting the wonderful steamship SS Misr, which dates from 1918 and was lovingly restored by Jules Verne.  SS Misr was also once owned by King Farouk, who hosted lavish parties on board.  I took a Nile cruise on the Misr in 2008 -a superb trip.

IIMG_0775f you’re travelling to Egypt – and I heartily recommend it despite the political situation – you’re spoilt for choice for wonderful places to stay.  My personal favourite has to be The Jolie Ville.  How can you beat a hotel that comes complete with its own star attraction – Ramses the camel offering rides to all and sundry?  Nothing comes close to the experience of sipping a cocktail while watching the fiery sun slowly slipping beyond the Theban Hills on the West Bank of the Nile.  Enjoy!

IMG_1132

FionaIMG_0851