Andrea here, As the first day of Spring creeps closer, I’m also musing on a far more sobering mark on the calendar. For me, this week marks the one year anniversary of start of the pandemic lockdown in my local area. And though there are now some glimmers of light—there’s limited indoor dining, schools have re-opened for hybrid learning—most of us still feel restricted in the things we can do.
One of the things I miss most is traveling, especially as the days grow longer and weather warms up, inviting one to get up and go explore! But as hopping on a plane to some faraway place doesn’t yet feel like a good plan, I’ve been doing some fun armchair adventuring instead, traveling to exotic destinations. So, I thought I’d invite to take trip with me down the Nile!
I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful scrapbooks that my mother put together of old family photographs. Great and Great-Great Grandfathers and Grandmothers . . .who apparently enjoyed exploring the world. (I guess I come by my curiosity naturally!) One of my favorites is of a trip my forbearers made to Egypt in 1910. (All the photos shown here are from the family trip, except for the Rosetta Stone) What strikes me is how alone they were at the famous sites, which really emphasizes the grandeur of the Pyramid and vastness of the desert.
The photos are particularly enjoyable to me because I’m a huge fangirl of Elizabeth Peters and her delightful Amelia Peabody mystery series, which is set in Egypt in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I keep expecting to see Peabody and Emerson peeking out from behind a camel or pyramid in my family photos (Amelia, of course, would be shaking her parasol at the tourists and telling them to stay clear of her husband’s excavation trenches!)
Amelia and her sexy husband are archeologists, as is their precocious son, Ramses and their beautiful ward Nefret. (Though I confess, I have a tendre for the Master Criminal—aka Sethos.) The series, which runs for 20 books, provides not only wonderful characters and twisty mysteries but also give a fascinating travelogue of the upper Nile. Peters takes you through the souks of Cairo, the splendor of luxury landmarks like Shepheards Hotel and Mena House, and the stark beauty of the great Pyramid and the Valley of the Kings.
If you’re a fan of the series, you probably know that Peters—her real name was Barbara Mertz—was not just a novelist. She had a PhD in Egyptology, and wrote serious scholarly articles on the subject. So she knew her stuff, and worked it in to her books!
Peabody and Emerson are British, and I think Mertz tipping her pith helmet at the fact that the British played a key role in sparking a fascination with ancient Egypt. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in the late 1700’s—part of the global chess game with Britain for who would be the top world power—he brought with him a cadre of scientist who discovered the Rosetta Stone 1799. British forces came to stop the French sweep through the Middle east and ended capturing the Stone in 1801 and taking it back to the London.
In 1822, the Rosetta Stone was finally decoded, allowing scholars to begin to read hieroglyphs— and that’s considered the birth Egyptology. With their magnificent art, massive sculptures and awe-inspiring pyramids, painted murals and mysterious mummies, the ancient civilizations of Egypt fascinated the West, drawing scholars, adventurers . . . and hordes of tourists. Umm, like my family!
The most prominent archeologist of Amelia’s era was Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (who is often mentioned in the novels.) Known as Flinders Petrie, he is credited with innovating professional techniques of field preservation, excavation methods, and recording data. His wife Hilda Petrie worked with at the sites . . . and I can’t help but think they may serve as inspiration for Peters!
A trip down the Nile is high on my World Travel List, and I would love to follow in my forbearers’ footsteps and visit the Sphinx, the Great Pyramid, the Valley of Kings and Luxor . . . with a lunch at Mena House, What about you? Would you like to visit historical treasures of Egypt? Or do you have another Dream Trip? Please share!