Adventure in Egypt
Margot is in Egypt working at the new archaeological site in the Valley of the Kings. She has been there for a few weeks lost in ancient history and feeling happily removed from it all. Out of the blue, the site telephone rings. It’s Colette. She’s in London and feeling bored.
“Margot, there’s nothing to do here. Everyone’s away. I've exhausted all the sales. Even Hound-Trot Oscar is closing for refurbishment.”
Hound-Trot Oscar is Colette’s favourite restaurant where she usually meets her friends for lunches as long as her ears.
“Margot, please may I come and see you in Egypt? It would be so much fun!”
Margot hesitates. She doesn’t really want Colette to disturb her work especially as Colette is not really interested in history. Colette whines a little and, of course, Margot gives in.
“Alright then, Colette. When you get to Cairo, take the sleeping car express to Luxor. The baskets are comfortable enough. I’ll meet you at the station.” Colette wags her big tail, but, on the other end of the line, Margot feels chaos looming. Colette is surely bound to tire of ancient monuments after her first day in Egypt. But Margot is a good sister and she arrives early to meet Colette’s train.
Colette steps out of her carriage wearing a striking hat. Porters struggle with her enormous travel bags. Colette does not look like someone about to set off on an archaeological dig.
“Margot, Margot, I can’t believe I am here!”
Soon enough, Margot and Colette - and Colette's luggage - are heading off in the site's Jeep to the modest desert inn where Margot's fellow archaeologists have set up camp.
“This is so quaint,” says Colette when Margot shows her through the door.
Margot is not feeling all that chatty. She's focussed on her work and is hoping not to be too distracted by Colette.
Margot suggests they go to the Valley of the Kings together so that she can see her colleagues before the end of the day.
“Oh, of course, Margot, I just need a quick change of clothes first”.
An hour later Colette shows up in the courtyard of the inn where Margot is waiting for her impatiently.
Colette wears a boho-chic kaftan with lots of vintage jewellery and high-heeled Poochi sandals. She carries a marigold coloured parasol in one paw and a bag of pastries in the other. Margot doesn’t say anything although she thinks her sister’s outfit isn't exactly appropriate for a dusty archaeological site.
They set off in the Jeep, driving through dazzling desert dunes, turning off the track at a hand-written sign that reads “Archaeological Site 23b.”
At the site gates, a distinguished Pharaoh Hound greets the Bassets in Arabic “Salaam-alaykum”, or “Peace be with you”.
“Wa-alaykum-salam” replies Margot. She drives on to her parking spot by the site hut.
“I just need to go and speak with my colleagues about some drawings", Margot tells Colette. "It shouldn’t take too long, and then I can show you around the site”. Colette is busy sampling local music stations on the Jeep's radio.
“Don’t worry about me”, says Colette grooving to some hip Cairo beats.
Spencer, meanwhile - a Wire Fox Terrier - is pleased to see Margot as he wants to show her an exciting new development on the site straight away.
“Come and see this. I think I now have a better understanding of the foundations you helped dig up the other week."
Spencer and Margot spend what seems like an eternity to Colette speculating as to whether they're looking at the foundations of a palace or even the inner sanctum of a buried temple.
All by herself, Colette, the most sociable of dogs, is getting bored. She decides to go and find Margot walking precariously along a plank over a deep excavation. Margot’s jaw drops when she sees her. Oh please don’t fall in, she thinks, worrying, too, what Spencer will make of her sister dressed in a pink kaftan.
Colette, though, manages perfectly well on her high heels until, all of a sudden, she stops mid-plank.
“Oh no!” she yelps.
Margot is mortified. What now?
“My charm bracelet!” Colette whimpers. “It’s gone. I had it just now. It must have fallen into your sand pit.”
Oh dear, mutters Margot. Spencer looks disbelievingly at Margot and then at her sister, yet he can’t help feeling sorry for the charming Colette.
“Let’s get a ladder”, he says and within a few minutes has one propped up so Margot and Colette can reach the bottom of the pit.
Margot is rather cross especially when Colette begins digging furiously with hot sand flying everywhere and smothering the ancient fragments she has worked so hard to uncover. Colette, though, barks with joy, her long ears and freckled nose appearing through a cloud of whirling dust.
“What are you doing?” asks Margot.
“Look", says Colette. "I've found my charm bracelet, oh, and this thing, too!”
Colette holds up a stunning jet-black amulet of a rather stern looking dog. What on earth thinks Margot scampering to see it. Spencer leans over the pit to see what's going on.
“That looks like an Anubis - the dog god”, he barks.
Margot takes a closer look. She shakes her head and wags her tail.
“I can’t believe it. It is an Anubis. Looks like a rare one too.”
She takes the amulet from Colette's paw and scrambles up the ladder to show Spencer. Colette is more concerned with her charm bracelet, but pleased she's spotted something that clearly matters to Margot.
“Look Spencer", says Margot. "It’s Anubis wearing a malachite collar with the emblem of the legendary Dog Island hanging from it. I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”
Spencer studies the amulet carefully and especially the Anubis’s collar. This is certainly a very fine piece. He suggests Margot and Colette take it straightaway to the Great Ancient Egyptology Museum in Cairo.
The sisters hop into the Jeep and take the first overnight train. The following morning they wake to the sounds of the busy streets of Cairo.
At the Museum, Margot asks to see the Curator of Egyptian artefacts, Dr Brand. "Keeper, if you don't mind", says the sniffy receptionist, a Griffon on secondment from the Brera Museum in Milan.
Dr Brand sits behind a large desk in a huge office. Dr Brand is a Dachshund, his face hidden by a pair of enormous and pretentious glasses. Spencer has rung him in advance from the Valley of the Kings and Dr Brand has been persuaded to see Margot and Colette despite the short notice.
Greeting the sisters in an off-paw manner, Dr Brand points to a pair of uncomfortable modern chairs. As the girls sit down, they notice that the walls of Dr Brand’s office are covered in dozens of pictures of Dr Brand himself. They're from magazine interviews with the ambitious Keeper.
“My, you are very famous”, Colette enthuses.
“Well actually, before becoming a Keeper, “says Dr Brand with a wave of his paw, and clearly rather pleased with himself, “I was an editor and edited most of these magazines.”
Margot rolls her eyes.
“We'd like to show you a find we've made at Valley of The Kings Site 23b”, she says, putting a box with the amulet inside on Dr Brand’s desk.
Dr Brand opens the box, noses inside for a second and then shuts it again.
"A very common find”, he sniffs dismissively.
Margot tries to explain to Dr Brand why he might reconsider, but the extravagantly bespectacled Dachshund is far too busy to listen. There's a journalist from Dogzeen waiting outside and Dr Brand needs to focus on looking his best for the photo-shoot. It's clearly time for Margot and Colette to leave with their Anubis amulet.
“Oh dear,” says Colette thinking they’ve wasted Dr Brand’s valuable time.
"We must prove him wrong", asserts Margot as they shuffle past cabinets stuffed with mummified cats and dogs.
“Colette, we’re taking the next train to Alexandria", says Margot. There's a world famous library there, and perhaps I can find more about our Anubis there. You can visit the Egyptian-style fashion exhibition at the new Contemporary Art Museum. My friend Chantal has curated the show. You're sure to love it, and then we'll meet for a bowl of lunch.”
Colette is only too delighted to go and see some fashion. She enjoys the exhibition at the Museum very much - just as Margot thought she would.
Unfortunately, Margot doesn’t have such a good time at the library. Her research leads to nothing that might unravel the mystery of their Anubis and its special collar.
The girls lunch at a lovely table in the garden room of the Alexandria Continental Hotel. Margot seems a little forlorn until Colette rootles in a shopping bag and fetches out a dress she's bought at the Museum gift shop. Margot's eyes light up. There on the buttons of Colette’s new dress are island emblems exactly like the ones on their Anubis’s collar.
“Colette, this dress, where’s it made?”
Colette is pleased. Is Margot finally getting into fashion? Colette noses inside the dress and reads aloud,
“Made in Cairo by Hat-shep-sut Fashions.”
“Wonderful”, says Margot, looking up Hat-shep-sut Fashions on her smart phone. Colette frowns. What is her sister up to? Is there something wrong with the dress?
Margot leaves the table to find a quiet spot to speak to the owner of Hat-shep-sut Fashions, Zoe, a happy-go-lucky farm dog from New Zealand. Zoe is very helpful, answering all of Margot’s questions concerning the island emblem buttons and saying where she sourced them.
Margot returns to the lunch table, pays the bill and says to an increasingly puzzled Colette,
“Time to go to the souk”.
Puzzled she may be, yet Colette smiles her best fox face grin. She's really looking forward to seeing a souk as she knows this is a bazaar for SHOPPING!
The doorman of the Continental ushers the pair into a taxi. Margot explains to Colette, as the driver yaps loudly at other drivers from an open window as they yap loudly back, that they have to find out where the island buttons on her new dress come from because they could be an important clue to discovering more about the special emblem on the Anubis’s collar.
Zoe has given Margot the name of the stallholder at the souk. Margot and Colette meander through the maze of domed and top-lit passages to find themselves outside Dr Al-Charmah’s stall. It's a tent, of sorts, with rolls of carpets, cushions piled high and striped fabrics.
Dr Al-Charmah - a friendly Bull Terrier - offers the sisters red Egyptian tea served in finely decorated glasses while listening to Margot's tale. He harrumphs when he hears about the episode with Dr Brand at the museum, hastening to say that, for a real expert, they should be in touch with his friend in New York, a debonair Dalmatian called Mr Hanif who works for one of the leading auction houses just off Central Bark - he means Park.
Margot wee-mails Mr Hanif a photograph of the Anubis amulet with a close-up of the emblem hanging from its collar. That evening Mr Hanif confirms that just as Margot believes, she has in her paws a small treasure. In fact, it's an extremely rare Anubis known only in ancient temple murals discovered in the area around the legendary Dog Island that sunk into the Nile more than three thousand years ago.
Mr Hanif adds that the Egyptology Department at the University of Cairo has a Professor by the name of Dr Carter who is busy working on a paper on Dog Island. He suggests Margot speak to the University about her find. It will matter very much to them.
The next day Margot attends Dr Carter’s long lecture at the University - Colette slips out to go shopping halfway through - and shows him her Anubis as students leave the auditorium. Dr Carter is very different from Dr Brand. He can’t be nicer, and congratulates Margot on her discovery. He asks whether she might consider donating the Anubis to the University's special collection. It will be a real asset helping his department to explore the mysteries of Dog Island. Margot agrees before going to find Colette at Dr Al-Charmah’s house where the sisters have been invited to stay.
A few days later Margot and Colette receive a sumptuous package care of Dr Al-Charmah. The label on the box reads Hat-shep-sut Fashions and there’s a paw-written note from Zoe saying, “Looking forward to seeing you at the fund-raising”. Inside, are two beautiful Ancient Egyptian-inspired kaftan evening dresses. Because of their rare archaeological find, Margot and Colette are invited as guests of honour to the University’s special departmental gala this very evening.
Colette dives into a pomegranate bubble bath, soaking the bathroom, while Margot uses Dr Al-Charmah’s open-air shower on the balcony. The girls are ready just in time to make their way to the University for the party. Their driver compliments them on their new kaftans.
Zoe, who is also dressed in a very glamorous kaftan greets Margot and Colette with big kisses and introduces them to everyone. But, all too soon for Colette, everyone is locked in intense conversations about the rare Anubis and how this will help unlock secrets of long lost Dog Island. Colette yawns. She has had enough archaeology talk. She pads over to the band to ask them to play Dancing like Egyptians. Colette gets her happy way after all. Everyone is on the floor grooving . . .
©️ Laura Glancey
Copyright for all of the story words - both written and spoken - and all images on this website belongs to Laura Glancey
Sound Credits for Podcast:
Train sound - Daniel Simon
Tires squealing - Mike Koening
Glancey family including dogs