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.

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.

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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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Levison Wood. Walking the Nile

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Photo Credit : Channel 4

Last night I watched the last episode of Channel 4’s documentary ‘Walking the Nile’.  This four-part series followed former soldier Levison Wood as he set out to walk along the longest river on earth, from its source in deepest Africa, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt.  That’s 7 million steps and nine months of solid walking!

This was an impressive undertaking, given the heat, the distance and the painful foot blisters (shown in all their graphic glory!).

I found myself unexpectedly moved when Mr Wood – or ‘Lev’ as he introduced himself – reached the end of his epic journey and dived into the sea before an emotional reunion with his family.

I’ll be honest and say I haven’t watched all four episodes although I’ve seen bits of the previous ones, showing Levison travelling through Ethiopia and Sudan.  It was the final leg of his journey – through Egypt – that I wanted to see.  I’d hoped this might show Egypt in a light that would encourage tourists to return.  In this wish, I was disappointed.

I’m sure much of the challenge for Levison Wood was to be seen to walk through parts of the world that might be described as ‘trouble spots’.  He’s a battle-hardened man, who’s made a name for himself trekking across war zones.  But, to me, it was disappointing to see Egypt given this treatment.

I’m not so naive as to think everything in the garden is rosy in Egypt.  The News reports over the weekend of clashes in Cairo marking the 4-year anniversary of the Revolution to topple Hosni Mubarak – which have left 18 people dead – are testament enough to the on-going political unrest.  But I thought the Walking the Nile documentary was overly skewed towards portraying a country apparently rife with gun smugglers, where the atmosphere is one of tension and mistrust of foreigners.

In my 11 visits to Egypt (including trips in each of the last four years 2011-14), I have never experienced this sense of unease at all.  Admittedly, I have been a visitor to Luxor, not to any of the towns previously strongholds for the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.  Even so, I thought Egypt was misrepresented in last night’s programme.

Levison Wood paused briefly to enjoy the hospitality of the famous Old Cataract hotel in Aswan.  Previously host to Sir Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie, the hotel was conspicuously devoid of guests.  He also made short stops at some of the temples along Lake Nasser (although we weren’t shown him visiting Abu Simbel, despite the promise of the opening titles) and in Luxor.  But the jaw-dropping history and archaeological sites of Egypt were given scant air time, brushed over in favour of scenes of Mr Wood being followed by the police.  In this, too, I felt the Egyptian authorities were done a disservice.  It seemed clear to me the police officers concerned were good natured and concerned for Mr Wood’s safety whilst in their country, nothing more sinister than that.

I’m not sure what it will take for tourists to venture back to Egypt.  To be fair, the purpose of Channel 4’s documentary was not to be a travelogue.  Nevertheless I thought it a shame that such a spectacular country, one with so much to offer its visitors, was represented as a war zone.

I applaud Levison Wood for his courageous journey.  What a remarkable achievement.  Nevertheless, I hope I will be believed when I say Egypt remains a fabulous destination for a holiday.  I hope to go again during 2015, and make it a fifth consecutive year for a visit.  True, I may not have Cairo on my itinerary – and I will certainly avoid the Sinai Peninsula.  But Luxor is a treasure not to be missed.  I hope even Levison Wood would agree with that !

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – a series of mystery/adventure novels set in Luxor.  Available on Amazon.

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