Crime Writing Retreat in Egypt (Postponed)

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Postponed, new dates to be announced!

  • 7 Days, 6 Nights
  • 6-12 November 2023
  • Max Group Size: 18
  • Cairo, Aswan, and Luxor
  • Pickup from Cairo Int'l Airport or Greater Cairo

Join bestselling crime writer Jonathan Whitelaw for a crime writing retreat with a twist. Six days exploring, plotting, and crafting your perfect crime story in Egypt, the country that inspired the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie.

Following a tour of some of Egypt’s most iconic landmarks, you’ll board the traditional sailboat, Dahabiya on the Nile. This will be your writing retreat for the next five nights, where you will learn the basics of crime writing, including what makes a great novel and insights into the publishing industry.

Kick start your crime writing by giving life to that idea swirling around in your head or dusting off that first draft that’s been sitting in a drawer for too long.

A jolt into an unfamiliar place, especially if you’re feeling stuck, is sure to get your creativity ignited as you explore the iconic sights of this awe-inducing ancient land.

As we sail along the Nile, leave the day-to-day distractions behind and get writing.

While onboard you’ll work alongside fellow sleuths taking part in practical writing exercises and group discussions. There’ll be feedback sessions and individual writing time. By the end of the course, you will have developed your ideas and progressed your work.

Course Content

  • The basics of crime writing, including what makes a mystery and crime novel
  • Exploring sub-genres
  • Creating your perfect detective and villain
  • Discussing where to find inspiration
  • Learning to develop ideas into full-length novels
  • Making plots watertight, so only the fiendish and genius can solve your puzzles
  • Getting published: what agents/publishers are looking for and how to approach an agent/publisher


Before you set sail, you’ll visit Cairo, including the Great Pyramid and Sphinx. From Cairo, we’ll fly to Aswan. Here we’ll follow in Agatha Christie’s footsteps as we visit Philae Temple and Elephantine Island, finishing with a drink on the stunning terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel.

In the evening we’ll board your home for the next five nights. As well as talks, workshops, and writing led by Jonathan you’ll visit sights along the way. We end the course in Luxor where you’ll have the opportunity to see more sights that are central to Christie’s Death Comes at the End.

Introducing your course leader Jonathan Whitelaw

Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, award-winning journalist, and broadcaster.

After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture, and sport to fashion, music, and even radioactive waste — with everything in between.

His work has appeared in The Sun, Daily Mail, Scotsman, STV, and The Scots Magazine as well as numerous international newspapers and websites. He’s also a regular reviewer on the BBC — specifically for art reviews on The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland.

Jonathan has always wanted to visit Egypt, having fallen in love with the Pyramids when he was still in shorts.

His latest novel, The Village Hall Vendetta (April 2023), is a follow-up to the bestselling Bingo Hall Detectives — a cosy crime series set in the Lake District with a son and mother-in-law detective duo. Two more novels from the series are due for release in 2024 and 2025.

Jonathan also regularly contributes to book events, festivals, conferences and podcasts – with appearances on the Bloody Scotland Book Club, Blood Brothers, Writer’s Routine and The Bestseller Experiment, among others.

He also co-hosts the Friends of the North podcast, which looks at the arts in the north of the UK and beyond.

As well as being a talented writer and great tutor, Jonathan is a warm, funny, and generous author who will be sharing his insights, stories, and information on the publishing industry and what you can expect as a new writer.

The course and all tours will be in English.

What’s Included

  • Meet and assist service at Cairo AirportIncluding visa, if required
  • All transportation in air-conditioned vehicles
  • One night at the Marriott Gezira Palace HotelIncluding dinner and breakfast
  • Afternoon trip to the Pyramids and Sphinx
  • Welcome and orientation meeting on the evening of Day 1
  • Flight to Aswan
  • Day tour in AswanIncluding lunch
  • Drinks on the terrace at the Old Cataract Hotel
  • Four nights on a traditional sailboat DahabiyaFull board, including tea, coffee, and bottled water
  • Four-day writing retreat with best-selling crime novelist Jonathan Whitelaw
  • Evening activities and speakers
  • Tours to Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Esna Temples
  • Day tour of LuxorIncluding lunch at the Winter Palace Hotel
  • Flight from Luxor to CairoAlternatives can be arranged
  • Licensed and qualified guides
  • Welcome pack

What’s Excluded

  • Gratuities
  • Alcoholic and canned soft drinks

Day 1Arrive in Cairo

We will pick you up from your chosen location. If you are flying into Cairo, this includes full meet and assist service as soon as you disembark from your plane, including obtaining a tourist visa if required.
We will then transport you to the Marriott Gezira Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie stayed as a young woman. For customers who arrive on time, there will be a free afternoon tour of the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza.

In the evening there will be a welcome reception where you will meet your tutor, the bestselling crime writer Jonathan Whitelaw, and your fellow retreaters.

Day 2Fly to Aswan, a Tour of Aswan, Boarding a Dahabiya

Today we’ll fly to Aswan, where the action begins in Agatha Christie’s classic, Death on the Nile. This is your opportunity to get into a writing mood. We’ll be visiting some of the places mentioned in the book, including Philae Temple and Elephantine Island.

We will also enjoy a drink on the terrace of the stunning Old Cataract Hotel where some of the novel’s key scenes take place.

Elephantine Island – On the southern end of the Island you will find the site of ancient Abu, an important ancient trading town.

We will then take a short boat trip to visit Philae Temple. Built to honour the goddess Isis, this was the last temple built in the classical Egyptian style. Construction began around 690 BC, and it was one of the last outposts where the goddess was worshipped.

In the early evening, we will board the traditional sailboat Dahabiya, our home for the next five nights.

Day 3-6: The Writing RetreatGetting away with MURDER

The writing retreat begins with course leader Jonathan Whitelaw introducing you to the basics of crime writing.

You’ll explore essential craft questions, such as: What makes a mystery and crime novel? What are the sub-genres of crime? As well as how to choose the components that work for your story. Jonathan also discusses finding your writing voice, a writer’s mentality, and creating the perfect detective (and villain).

Day 4The Excellence of Execution

Today, Jonathan will dive a little deeper into the crime writing process. Through exercises and group discussions, you’ll start to flesh out your ideas and explore how to nurture ideas for crime and mystery novels.

You will then explore how to start developing those ideas into full-length novels and manuscripts. We’ll close with how to make plots watertight, so only the fiendish and genius can solve your narrative puzzles.

Day 5Down the Garden Path

Jonathan will be leading you on a merry chase to get to the bottom of what makes a great crime novel.

You’ll examine the roles red herrings in developing plots and how they keep readers hooked from page one. You’ll also look at the wider crime market and what agents, editors, and publishers are looking for in a successful manuscript.


Day 6Getting on the Shelf

Jonathan will share some stories, insights, and information about the publishing industry and what is expected from new writers hoping to be on the shelves.

You’ll learn about the ‘writer’s code of conduct’, who, what, where, and when to send work, and how professional writers spend their days. You’ll also take part in a group activity to invent your own crime short story, with a prize for the best efforts.

During the cruise, we will visit Kom Ombo, Edfu, and Esna.

Built to overlook the Nile, the dual design of Kom Ombo Temple is dedicated to Sobek and Horus and is perfectly symmetrical along its main axis.

It is one of the more unusual temples in Egypt. Due to the conflict between Sobek and Horus, the ancient Egyptians felt it necessary to separate their temple spaces within one complex. The temple has two entrances, two courts, two colonnades, two Hypostyle halls and two sanctuaries, one side for each god.

Edfu Temple was built between 237 and 57 BC and is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in Egypt. Preserved by desert sand, which filled the place after the pagan cult was banned, the temple is dedicated to Horus, the avenging son of Isis and Osiris. With its roof intact, it is also one of the most atmospheric of ancient buildings.

Dedicated to the ram-headed god Khnum, the Temple of Esna contains 24 beautifully decorated pillars with lotus flowers. There are also stunning reliefs showing Ptolemaic and Roman Emperors dressed in Pharaoh costumes, offering sacrifices to the god Khnum.

Cruise itinerary may vary due to sailing times.

Day 7Arrive and Tour Luxor, then Depart to Cairo

Today marks the end of our writing retreat and our arrival in Luxor. Our Agatha Christie pilgrimage continues, as we visit Karnak Temple. This site features in the 1978 Peter Ustinov film of Death on the Nile.

We will lunch at the Winter Palace Hotel, the location of the Death of the Nile 2004 TV episode starring David Suchet. Agatha Christie’s novel Death Comes as the End was also located in this area, Luxor being the location of Thebes, the capital of Ancient Egypt between x and y.

And there’s more to whet your crime-writing appetite. The wonderful, prolific author Elizabeth Peters set many of her books, featuring the archaeologist Amelia Peabody, in Luxor. You’ll also visit the breathtaking Valley of the Kings, where many scenes from the books take place.

We’ll travel onwards to Luxor Temple and the Temple of Hatshepsut, as no visit to Luxor is complete without seeing these astonishing ancient Egyptian temples.

Once we have finished our tour of Luxor you will have several options. We will fly you back to Cairo and on to your flight departing Egypt, or we can transport you to other destinations in Egypt if you wish to extend your holiday. Perhaps a few days chilling at the beach in Hurghada?

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