Ramses’ Riches now published

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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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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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My top 10 historical sites in Egypt

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

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

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

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At number 9, the Temple of Edfu, probably the best preserved of all the ancient Egyptian temples. It dates from the Graeco-Roman period, and is included on any Nile cruise itinerary. It’s the location of a scene in Hatshepsut’s Hideaway, the third book in my series.

Here I am outside the main pylon – March 2008.

 

IMG_4215At number 8, the Temple of Philae, near Aswan. It’s a lovely temple, also dating from the Graeco-Roman period, and dedicated to the goddess Isis. It was rescued by UNESCO as after the British dam was built in the early twentieth century it spent half the year under water. UNESCO moved it piece by piece to the nearby island of Agilika. Not yet used as a location in my books. Here I am in January 2012.

 

 

IMG_4505Number 7 is the pyramid and sphinx (not sure if it’s cheating to put them together) on the Giza plateau in Cairo. The pyramids tower over the surrounding suburbia. Merry sits near the swimming pool in Le Meridien hotel, gazing in awe at the pyramids in my second book Tutankhamun’s Triumph.

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At number 6, I’ll go for the Temple of Medinet Habu, built by Ramses III and located on the West Bank at Luxor. It’s not always included in the touring itineraries, but well worth an independent visit. The original colours are beautifully preserved.

Not yet used as a location in my books.

 

 

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At number 5, The Valley of the Kings. A barren, desolate and rather forbidding place … once stuffed with enough gold to sink a battle ship, buried in the tombs of the dead pharaohs. It’s forbidden to take photographs nowadays – so here’s one of me taken back in 2004. The Valley of the Kings features prominently in all of my novels.

 

 

scan0141Number 4, the wonderful Winter Palace hotel. I was lucky enough to stay here for New Year in 2008-9; the best New Year’s Eve ever! Frequented by both Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in the years leading up to the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun.

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

 

DSCN5281So, to my personal top 3.

At number 3 I think it has to be Hatshepsut’s Temple on the West Bank in Luxor. It features prominently in all six books. Set dramatically against the craggy cliff face at Deir el Bahri, and backed by the Valley of the Kings, it’s rich with dramatic potential.

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At number 2, the complex of temples that make up Karnak. The Hypostyle Hall takes my breath away every time I go there. The temple is the largest religious structure ever built. Words are inadequate to the task of describing it. As yet, I’ve perhaps not made as much of its dramatic potential as I could.  Merry and Adam go there to look at the obelisks in Carter’s Conundrums.

 

 

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So, we’ve arrived at number 1. Personally, for sheer egotistical magnificence, I don’t think you can beat the temples of Abu Simbel, built by Ramses II. Yes, I’m cheating again. There are actually two temples… one for Ramses himself, and a smaller one for his great royal wife Nefertari. I walked around the latter with a lump in my throat – it’s exquisite. They’re also a marvel of modern engineering, raised to higher ground by UNESCO to escape the rising waters of Lake Nasser.

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

Fiona Deal

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

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A frequent visitor to Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

Fiona

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

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What lies beneath …?

Photo by Paolo Bondielli Min Project – Luxor Times

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

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

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

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

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

Fiona Deal

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So who was King Farouk?

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My latest book following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt is called Farouk’s Fancies.  On a recent trip to Luxor I visited the wonderful old colonial hotel, The Winter Palace.

This was once a winter retreat for Egypt’s last reigning monarch, King Farouk.  He was last in line of the Turkish Mohammed Ali Dynasty that had ruled Egypt for ten generations.  It sparked my interest in finding out a bit more about the king who was exiled to Europe after an uprising by the people that toppled him from power (sound familiar?)

And what a fascinating and larger(literally) than life character he was!

English: Photograph of Farouk I (1920-1965), K...

English: Photograph of Farouk I (1920-1965), King of Egypt (1936-1952). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He came to the throne as a teenager; young, handsome and blue-eyed.  But the honeymoon period wasn’t to last. Known early in his reign for his excessive partying and gambling, Farouk was once described as “a stomach with a head”. He grew to over 20 stone. It’s rumoured he drank 30 bottles of fizzy drink every day and had caviar for breakfast; apparently eating it straight from the can.

King Farouk of Egypt (1948)

King Farouk of Egypt (1948) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was said if there were seven deadly sins, Farouk would find an eighth.  He was a glutton , womaniser, gambler and, perhaps bizarrely for someone with infinite wealth, a kleptomaniac.  He famously stole a pocket watch from Winston Churchill.  He later claimed to have simply found it lying around, but neglected to mention that he’d “found” it in Churchill’s pocket.  He also stole a ceremonial sword from the coffin of the Shah of Persia, while it was in Cairo.  It put a strain on relations between Egypt and Persia for years.

There’s another story that after having nightmares about lions attacking him, Farouk decided to take a trip to the Cairo Zoo.  Once there, he shot the lions in their cages. Hardly a normal reaction to suffering a bad dream!

Finally, when Hitler’s army was preparing to invade Egypt, Farouk sent Hitler a telegram apparently welcoming the offensive. He resented the British forces occupying his country.  I can only assume he must have thought the Nazis were somehow preferable.

Farouk frittered away his popularity. In 1952, he was overthrown in a move supported by both the British and American governments and soon afterwards the hugely popular President Nasser took up the reigns of leadership in Egypt.  Farouk was sent into exile in Europe.  When his palaces were raided, he was found to have huge collections of treasures including rare coins, stamps, and a massive collection of pornography.

While my book is set in the present day, so Farouk does not appear as a character, the mythology that’s sprung up about his personality and excessive lifestyle provided a great backdrop for my story.