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JANE AKSHAR


Jane Akshar lives in Luxor, Egypt, has studied Egyptology and written many books. She has also experienced what it's like to be a member and leave a cult - if you are interested, check the links in the below interview. 

Jane Akshar and Joanne Stables have also launched a campaign "Accessible Egypt". The intention is to make the ancient Egyptian temples accessible to those who have difficulties in moving about  - using mobility scooters, walking sticks or frames. Or simply people who are a little wobbly on their feet. Local antiquities authorities have shown interest to this worthy cause.

You can see Jane on her own mobility scooter - the first in Luxor. 

YOU HAVE WRITTEN MANY BOOKS AND EGYPTOLOGY SEEMS TO BE A FAVOURITE SUBJECT.
HOW DID YOU GET INTERESTED IN ANCIENT EGYPT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

When I was visiting my grandmother at Christmas 1963

When I was visiting my grandmother at Christmas 1963  and I was 9. You know when you visit you don’t have all your toys so they are trying to find things to interest you. I have always been a great reader so I was given the book on Tutankhamen by Christiane Desroches Noblecourt to read. My grandmother loved Egyptology. I was fascinated, he was 9 I was 9. I could not get enough. In March it was my 10th birthday and I was given book tokens so I got the paperback version for 12/6. Pre decimalisation it would be about 62 ½ pence today. After that it became an obsession and I read everything I could get hold of.

you have also studied egyptology - tell us about that

When I first went in Egypt in 1979 I thought I knew everything. I rapidly realised I knew nothing. So I started going to evening classes, I did a three year, two year and a five course. It was fascinating, the more I learnt the more I had to learn. When my Syrian husband died in 2002 I was considering taking a university course with UCL but then I met my Egyptian husband. Study Egyptology or live it in Egypt, there was no contest. In 2006/7 we had a guest visit our apartments who was doing the online course with the University of Manchester. The Certificate in Egyptology. This was ideal for me living in Egypt and I also had access to the Chicago House field library which is superb. My year was the last to do the 4 year course. The last year was entirely dissertation I got the award for the outstanding dissertation, I was so chuffed..

what made you think about writing your own books?
have you always wanted to be a writer?

My very good friend and mentor Colette Mason suggested it, I didn’t think I was good enough but she persuaded me. I loved guiding people around the sites and knew them like the back of my hand. I wrote the book like I led my guided tours, a very personal take on it with my sense of humour. The book Hidden Luxor has sold hundreds of copies which has encouraged me to write other books. I have had a very eventful life so my books are a combination of biography and Egyptology.

what was the writing process like? did the text come easily? how much research you needed to do for your books?

When I write my books I put it all down, brain dump. With the Egyptology books these were based on my work on the course and with these I read a lot, when a quote struck me I made a note and then brought it into the text. With Hidden Luxor I imagined taking people around the site and saying all the things I would have said going round. As I had been doing that for years I had researched when I was asked questions I didn’t know. I guess that was a distillation of everything I had learnt over several years. Also we had lectures in Luxor at the Mummification Museum and I brought a lot of what I learnt there into my guiding and then into Hidden Luxor. So a variety of methods

you have written about your experiences as a member of a cult?
what was the motivation behind writing this book?

To be honest it was to make money and warn others. At the time I wrote it we had gone through the revolution and tourism had dived. We needed money. Over the years since I left the cult I have had loads of emails asking questions so I knew people wanted answers. When we did the BBC radio program we were told it had the most audience responses of any program in that series, we got loads of letters. So I knew it was a very important subject. The first thing I wrote on the subject was cathartic and I still get emails.

are you planning on writing any new books?

 I have wanted to write about my daughter and her life, especially going to Syria to live. But that story is still on-going.

have you read novels set in ancient egypt? what is your overall view about them - are the details correct. what advice would you give to anyone wanting to write about ancient egypt?

 Yes I have, some are terrible, some are inaccurate but really engage you (Joan Grant) and some are very accurate and very good read. So either do loads of research or have a very engaging writing style.

i have to ask - can you watch movies about ancient egypt? can you enjoy the plot or do you count the mistakes (something I tend to do)? What is the funniest misconception about ancient egypt you've met so far?

 The same applies here. I have never been able to watch the Mummy, the opening credits have 5 canopic jars, WTF. Land of Pharaohs was so bad it was funny. I did start counting the mistakes but there were so many. Why is everyone shown wearing the nemes head cloth)

you have a blog spezializing in events in the luxor area. how long has it been live? how do you find the information you share? do you have to search for it actively or do people already know you well enough to contact you and let you know what you could write about?

The blog used to be reports of the lectures at the mummification museum and odd things I picked up while guiding. Now it is gathering news reports. I have Google alerts set up to let me know. I start it in 2004 so it has been going a long time.

you also have apartments for rent in luxor. what kind of services do you offer to your visitors who are interested in ancient egypt?

Absolutely everything. We have done Nile cruises both on floating hotels and in sailing boats, wild camping in the desert searching for petroglyphs, visiting a war grave of a great uncle. Tours from Alexandra to Abu Simbel. I love being a fairy god mother and making people’s dreams come true. I don’t do “set tours”, I try and find out what they want and make it happen. I really enjoy that.

where can people find your books / apartments / blog?

I have so many websites to try and cover everything. 

www.janeakshar.com is more personal covering the books, family tree research and my web design business. The others are

                                                              i.      Holiday rentals and long term stays for Egyptologists: https://www.flatsinluxor.co.uk

                                                            ii.      River Nile Cruises by sail: http://www.sailthenile.com

                                                          iii.      Eco Holidays: http://www.nubian-eco-village.com

                                                          iv.      Egypt Property for Sale: http://www.egyptpropertyforsale.co.uk


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