- Karen Frost
Chapter 13: Luxor to Alexandria in a Day
Updated: Mar 27, 2021
When this chapter starts, Anna identifies a passenger on the train as Fernand Bisson de La Roque, a French archaeologist and Egyptologist. De la Roque was a real person. From 1921-1924, he excavated the Djedefre pyramid at Abu Rawash, which is far north of Cairo near the Nile delta. From 1925 to 1932, he excavated at the Temple of Monthu, about 8 km northeast of Luxor. So theoretically, he could have plausibly been on a train between Luxor and Cairo in mid-December 1923. De la Roque, by the way, was a handsome man who looked a bit like a cross between Daniel Craig and Woody Harrelson.
The setting of chapter 13 is the Luxor Express. In reality, the train would have been quite small. Pictures of similar trains from Egypt at that time show only a few cars (six or so), nothing like bigger trains like the famed Oriental Express. Unexpectedly, it appears the baggage car was likely at the front of the train, behind the locomotive, not at the back, as one would expect. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the inside of the trains. As a result, this is one place where I fudged in the writing. I made the train a bit bigger, and much more lavish than it would have been in reality.
Anna's diatribe against her father as an anti-feminist is 100% true. More than just your usual Orientalist of the time, Lord Cromer founded and led the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage in the UK in 1908 (and subsequently led the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage from 1910-1912), and in Egypt, he raised school fees (preventing girls' education) and discouraged the training of female doctors. Fun fact about Cromer: he had an illegitimate daughter (although not a legitimate one, like the fictional character of Anna Baring).
Finally, if you've ever wondered "What undergarments did women wear in the 1920s?" this webpage is for you.