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.


Levison Wood. Walking the Nile


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.


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.



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.



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.





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.



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.





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.


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.



A frequent visitor to Egypt


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.


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




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.


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?


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.

Tourism in Egypt takes a hit

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пирамиды Гизы на изображении. Español: Las Pirámides de Guiza (Egipto). Français : Les Pyramides de Gizeh (Egypte). Català: Les Piràmides de Giza, a Egipte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During these troubled times in Egypt it’s impossible not to spare a thought for all those whose livelihood depends on a thriving tourist industry.

Since President Morsi was ousted last month most Western governments have issued a travel warning against travel to Egypt and asked their citizens there to depart.  Pre-revolution 12% of Egypt’s workforce was employed in the tourism sector.  In 2011 visitors decreased by 37%.  I haven’t seen figures for 2012 or this year but on my last trip to Luxor in April the historical sites remained uncrowded and there were more cruise boats moored six-or-seven-deep along the riverbank than sailing up and down the Nile.

English: Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor, Egypt

English: Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor, Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those of us for whom Egypt is a favourite holiday destination can only hope for a swift resolution to the current political turmoil and spare a thought for all those people who contribute to making our visits so memorable and who must now be going through such tough times.

Great Temple at Abu Simbel, Egypt

Great Temple at Abu Simbel, Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Egypt has a unique and awe-inspiring cultural heritage.  Having been preserved for all these millennia it would be a tragedy to watch it to crumble beneath the weight of political chaos now. I can only hope the reports that some of Egypt’s ancient sites are unprotected and vulnerable to thieves are exaggerated.  So my wish today is for a speedy return to calm so that Egypt may once again welcome foreign visitors so we can marvel at her monumental history and help preserve it for future generations.  And, if you’d like to go there in your imagination since you can’t go there for real right now, you may wish to sample my trilogy of novels set in Luxor…

Fiona Deal

Book 1 of Meredith Pink's Adventures in Egypt

Book 1 of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

Book 2 of Meredith Pink's adventures in Egypt

Book 2 of Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt

Author of Carter’s Conundrums, Tutankhamun’s Triumph and Hatshepsut’s Hideaway – following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – all available in Kindle or paperback on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.


Egypt – beyond the tourist bubble

IMG_0973IMG_0975On a recent trip to Luxor, a couple of experiences got me thinking about life outside the tourist bubble…

Firstly, I decided one evening to eat outside my hotel and visited a charming restaurant in downtown Luxor.  It was warm  and I was glad of the air conditioning.  No sooner had I given my order – for a rather tasty Egyptian tagine – than all the lights went out and, yes, you guessed it, the air conditioning unit shut down.  Apparently these power cuts were a daily – even several times daily – occurrence.  Candles immediately appeared on all the tables and each of the waiters carried a small battery operated torch.  Luckily an emergency generator kept the kitchen operational.  But as the temperature started to rise (no air conditioning and all those candles) it struck me what a challenge it must be for local businesses having to deal with this type of interruption to their service on a nightly basis, and at peak trade.  As one of the staff said to me, “When this happens in the evenings we’re at home, the heat and the pitch dark mean all you can do is lie down and pretend to be a vegetable.”  I loved the prosaic attitude.  But with temperatures at this time of year regularly hitting 40 degrees (and not cooling off much at night), it made me realise how much we tourists take the electricity supply for granted.  Of course, the power cuts don’t affect the hotels because they have their own on site generators.  Apparently the power cuts are the result of the government’s agreement to sell electricity to Israel.  This link is the latest I’ve been able to discover about this agreement.  I couldn’t quite make up my mind what I thought about all this.  One one hand, I understand the government’s need to underpin the Egyptian economy – which relies so heavily on tourism (so sadly depleted since the revolution) and agriculture.  But for this to be at the expense of local businesses struggling to keep their own heads above water during these tough times didn’t sit completely comfortably with me.

The second experience that gave me pause for thought was during a trip to the West Bank to visit some of the tombs of the nobles.  These tombs riddle the Theban Hills giving it something of the appearance of a mountainous Swiss cheese.  What’s fascinating is that over the centuries a modern village called Gurneh sprang up on the hillside, in many cases with the dwellings built literally on top of the ancient tombs.  I remember on my first visit to Luxor in the 1980’s, the village was still there – although over the last decade or so the villagers have largely been relocated to the modern, purpose built  New Gurneh to enable proper excavation of the Nobles’ tombs to take place.

IMG_4401My taxi driver for my excursion to the West Bank was a friendly chap (I’ve yet to meet an unfriendly one) called Hassan.  Once he’d deposited me at the tombs I’d chosen to explore (see my previous blog about the El Khokha tombs), he then offered to drive me around the village of New Gurneh so I could see for myself the new homes so many people have relocated to.  I was impressed.  He showed me the school and the hospital.  Then, on the return journey, he suggested I might like to call in on his family for some tea.  Being decidedly hot and dusty by this stage, this was an appealing idea.  The Egyptian tea is hot and sweet, served without milk, and usually with fresh mint.  He took me to a rather tumbledown mud brick house near the canal that runs inland from the Nile along the West Bank.  It was deliciously cool inside, the windows shuttered and the thick mud brick walls keeping the heat of the sun out.  The interesting thing was that tea wasn’t the only thing I was offered.  As I sipped the hot, fragrant beverage, his brother brought me a selection of ancient Egyptian artefacts to look at.  Hassan carefully explained in rather broken English that his family grew up in the old village of Gurneh.  Many of them had ancient tombs as cellars.  As children they made a habit of digging for treasure, and the artefacts I was being shown now represented just one families’ collection.  There were lots of small carved figurines made from faience, and small stone scarabs and carved cats.  The piece de resistance was an exquisitely carved stone head of a pharaoh, complete with the uraeus snake rising from his brow.  It was heavy, probably solid granite, and rested in my palm, probably about the size of a large orange.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hassan and his brother very keen for me to make an offer on any of the pieces that took my fancy.  This presented me with something of a dilemma.  I did not wish to appear rude in the face of their hospitality and I could certainly sympathise with their attempts to supplement a no doubt meagre family income.  But at the same time  I had horrible visions of being stopped by customs officials at the airport and trying to explain how a genuine pharaonic artefact came to be in my luggage.  It was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat.  But it made me wonder …  If this was just one families’ selection of the artefacts they’d dug up, effectively from their own back yards, how many more such exquisite and possibly important pieces must there be stored in cupboards and boxes in the homes of the ordinary people of Luxor’s West Bank?  The Egyptian people live a simple agricultural life.  I’ll be honest, I was a little bit horrified to be offered antiquities for sale in a private home.  But “finders-keepers” is a deep-seated concept in many cultures.  So who am I to judge these warm, welcoming people for trying to earn a few extra pennies from the ancient Egyptian artefacts that literally turned up under the floorboards, so to speak?  I resisted the temptation and eased my conscience with a generous tip when Hassan deposited me back at my hotel.

So, the economy in Egypt is struggling and the local people seize whatever opportunities they can to make a living in often difficult circumstances.  I admire them.  And I do what I can… just small things like preferring to visit the sites by taxi and in the company of an Egyptian guide, rather than on an organised tour with one of the travel agencies.  I’d rather put my money in the pockets of the local people where possible.

These little slices of everyday Egyptian life are so special.  I am a writer, and have so far published three mystery/adventure stories set in present-day Egypt, so experiences like these are invaluable.

I have been back from my most recent trip for a few weeks now.  When I look back I find it is not the tombs and temples that made the most significant impression on this occasion.  I remember the night the lights went out in the restaurant, and I remember the thrill of handling a genuine artefact in a humble homestead on the West Bank.  These are memories to treasure – a little slice of the real Egypt outside the tourist bubble.

Fiona Deal

Book 1 of Meredith Pink's Adventures in Egypt

Book 1 of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

Book 2 of Meredith Pink's adventures in Egypt

Book 2 of Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt

Author of Carter’s Conundrums, Tutankhamun’s Triumph and Hatshepsut’s Hideaway – following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – all available in Kindle or paperback on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.


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!



Don’t miss the Tombs of the Nobles – el-Khokha Tombs

IMG_2007One of the highlights of my trip to Luxor was the chance to visit some of the little-known Theban Tombs.  They riddle the Theban Hills like a mountainous Swiss cheese.  According to my guide book there are thousands of them, although only a handful are open to the public with a ticket purchased from the ticket booth near the Colossi of Memnon.  I visited the three tombs of El-Khokha.IMG_4401

IMG_4389The tomb of Dhuti is unusual for containing seated statues,presumably images of the deceased tomb-owner himself, gazing over his grave goods.

IMG_4395Nefersekhuru and Neferrenpet were both Scribes of the Treasury in the Estate of Amun-Ra during the second half of the reign of Ramses II,

and would presumably have known each other.  It’s tempting to see thrm trying to out-do each other with their tombs.  Both bear their original paintings, the colours remarkably preserved considering the passage of some three thousand years.  Nefersekhuru’s tomb has a beautifully painted geometrically patterned ceiling, shown here in the photograph.

IMG_4394The Theban tombs show us a slice of real life that’s not so easy to glimpse in the royal tombs, which are laden with religious iconography.  These are the houses of eternity that you or I may have chosen for ourselves, had we happened to live in dynastic Egypt and boast a reasonably good job.  Here’s just a selection of the scenes.  The guard on duty was more than happy for me to take photographs in return for a little baksheesh.  I switched off the flash of course.

IMG_4398Do visit if you ever get the chance.  These wonderful little sepulchres are not to be missed.

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.

Book 1 of Meredith Pink's Adventures in Egypt

Book 1 of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

Dendera Zodiac

The Dendera Zodiac was on the ceiling of the G...

The Dendera Zodiac was on the ceiling of the Greco-Roman temple of Hathor at Dendera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, so here’s the question that’s been playing on my mind today.  Is it a good thing or not that the original Dendera zodiac was chipped from the wall of the temple at some point during the nineteenth century by the early explorers of Egypt and now resides in Le Louvre in Paris?  Would it not be better for it to have remained in situ in the wonderful Ptolemaic temple where it was first carved?

I visited Dendera Temple yesterday.  It’s an hour’s drive north along the desert road from Luxor; or it’s possible to take a boat trip if you want to make a whole day of it.

IMG_4452The temple sits on the West Bank of the Nile, opposite the modern town of Qena. It’s quite simply stunning.  A beautifully preserved temple, full of the chirping of hundreds of sparrows.  The tops of the columns in the Hypostyle Hall are unusual for having the Hathor-headed capital – still with original colours.   It’s right up there with some of the other hugely impressive temples of ancient Egypt.

IMG_4454This temple was built towards the end of the Ptolemaic period, some two thousand years ago.  There’s a huge carving on the back wall of Cleopatra with Caesar and their son Caesarian who was sadly never to assume his place at Pharaoh once the Roman Empire fully took charge after the joint suicide of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.

IMG_4451 A clean-up job has begun inside the temple.  The roof is blackened from the centuries when the temple almost disappeared beneath the sands of time; and the old Bedoiuns used to camp out inside the temple walls, and build fires to keep warm and for their cooking pots.  The smoke from these fires has blackened the roof with centuries’ worth of soot.  The careful cleaning job is revealing a remarkable ceiling, beautifully painted and with its original colours still largely intact.  This picture looks like it’s half in the shadow and half in the light.  Actually, it shows half the ceiling – cleaned – and the other half still blackened with dirt.

But back to the question that’s been bugging me.  The trouble is, I can argue it both ways.  The museums of the world – notably the British Museum in London, Metropolitan in New York, Le Louvre in Paris and the Turin Museum in Italy – are filled with treasures taken from Egypt in those early days of exploration before the Egyptian Antiquities Service put a stop to it in the early twentieth century.

My heart tells me that Egypt’s treasures should have remained in Egypt.  I would love to visit the temples and see them filled with their statues and original wall carvings.  I can’t help but feel Egypt has been robbed of some of its fabulous heritage.  But it’s also a simple fact that some people will never get the opportunity to travel to Egypt – and to see the fabulous statuary and artefacts in the museums of the world is better than never seeing them at all.  And perhaps this is what inspires many people to come to Egypt in the first place.  So it’s a circular argument in the end.

But standing in Dendera temple yesterday, and looking at the huge metre-square replica of the zodiac on the roof of the dark little chapel where the original once resided; I couldn’t help but question the ethics of those original explorers who chipped this remarkable carving off the wall and shipped it to Europe.

Fiona Deal – Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.  Three modern adventure stories set in Egypt, with ancient mysteries to solve…

Pharaoh leaves nothing to chance

Façade, Temple of Seti I, Abydos, Egypt

Façade, Temple of Seti I, Abydos, Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday we visited Abydos, a drive of about 2 hours north from Luxor along the desert road that connects Cairo with Aswan.  Abydos is one of the oldest sites in Egypt and contains archaeological remains from every period of ancient Egypt.

A cult grew up in ancient times that it was the burial place of the god Osiris; and for a thousand years or more ancient Egyptians made pilgrimages to the site to make offerings.

IMG_4438Today, it’s most famous for the temple of Seti I (father to the prodigious builder Ramses II) who ruled at the start of the 19th Dynasty, a little over three thousand years ago.  The quality of the carving, many in raised relief, is outstanding.  The detail on Seti’s crown in this photograph, for example, is exquisite.

IMG_4443The temple is contemporary with the great Hypostyle Hall of pillars at Karnak.  But unlike at Karnak, here at Abydos the original colours of the wall reliefs are beautifully preserved.  Perhaps because of this, the content of the scenes is easy to make out, even for the untrained eye.  Here we have Seti I making offerings before all the major gods of the ancient Egyptian pantheon.  We see him before falcon-headed Horus, ram-headed Knum, ibis-headed Thoth, lion-headed Sekhmet, jackel-headed Anubis and crocodile-headed Sobek.  We see scene after scene of him before Osiris (god of the afterlife) and his wife Isis, with their son Horus.

Temple of Osiris at Abydos

Temple of Osiris at Abydos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, these scenes are replicated on temple walls the length and breadth of Egypt.  But what really struck me at Abydos – where they hit you square between the eyes – is how little Pharaoh was prepared to leave to chance.  Literally every square inch of his temple is decorated with scenes of him worshipping the gods.  I’m very sure he was well looked after in the afterlife!

Abydos is also famous for its ‘king-list’.  This is a wall carved from one end to the other with the cartouches of the kings of Egypt who preceded Seti I – from Narmer who unified upper and lower Egypt in the Old Kingdom through the Seti’s father Ramses I.  Notably, there are a few key individuals missing.  Hatshepsut has been left out – possibly because she was a woman.  And the controversial kings of the Amarna period (Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Ay) also fail to get a mention.  The Amarna period was within the living memory of the older folk among the population – a time of social upheaval and religious oppression.

Abydos is a wonderful temple – well worth the drive from Luxor.  And I think my visit may have given me another idea for a book!

Fiona Deal

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.

Book 1 of Meredith Pink's Adventures in Egypt

Book 1 of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt


Cruising the Nile

The palm trees nod politely to each other along the riverbank.  Black and white kingfishers dart in and out of the shallows, playing a game of hide and seek among the reeds that line the waters edge.  The great river Nile surges underneath the boat, making its journey from Ethiopia to spill into the Mediterranean, thousands of miles away.  This is Egypt.

To cruise the Nile is to sail through a timeless landscape.  Ok, so the electricity pylons compete with the ancient stone-built pylons (or gateways) of the ancient temples.  We’re not so much sailing under the gigantic sails of a Victorian dahabeeyah as being propelled through the water by diesel, no doubt leaving choking fumes in our wake.

But this is still Egypt.  Exotic, timeless, romantic and just slightly scary.  The sun beats from a hard, hot sky, demanding submission in much the same way I imagine the ancient Pharaohs once did.  The locals hassle incessantly, citing the delights of caleche rides (horse and carriage) and trips out on a felucca at sunset.  Baksheesh is a way of life.  The price they suggest is never actually what they mean, or what you’ll end up paying if you’re unwary.  But the people are friendly, welcoming and eager to share the delights of their country and way of life.

I don’t think there’s anywhere quite like it on the planet.  Ancient and modern juxtaposed in a way that makes you wonder which is more deserving of its position.

This is the setting for my series of books following Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.  Through her, I get to spend all my leisure time in the fabled land of the Pharaohs.  There’s nowhere I’d rather be, whether it’s for real or the opportunity to travel along the banks of the Nile in my imagination.

Here’s a short video I made showing typical river scenes from the deck of a Nile cruiser.  I hope it brings a little slice of Egypt to wherever you are right now.


On location in Luxor

Luxor in Egypt provides the setting for my books following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.  I’ve stayed many times in Luxor.  It’s a kind of open air museum.  All the key sites are within easy travelling distance, on either the East Bank (where most of the modern hotels are located) or the West Bank of the Nile.

Some of those who’ve been kind enough to write reviews of my books – and have obviously travelled to Egypt themselves – have said the books bring back great memories for them.  Egypt really is a place once visited, never forgotten.

For those of you who may not have been lucky enough (yet ?!) to travel to the magical land of the pharaohs, here’s a short video I put together.  It’s my take on some of the most impressive historical sites Luxor has to offer.

I haven’t yet used all these archaeological sites as settings for scenes in my books.  And there are a few locations I haven’t included in this video.  The Ramesseum for one, and the Temple of Seti I – both located on the West Bank.

That’s the whole thing about Egypt … there’s so much to see … so much history.  It’s hard to know what to include and what to leave for another time …

And it keeps drawing me back.

Fiona Deal