Customer Story: Aswan-Tranquil Temples, "No Hassle" Markets
Allison Carter, an Atlas Travel® Insurance customer, recently fulfilled a long-time desire to visit Egypt. She shared with us this blog post, the third in a series, detailing her experiences exploring Aswan, the temple of Philae, and the Spice Market. You can find more of her story in the HCCMIS Blog and at the HCCMIS YouTube channel. If you have traveled abroad with coverage from one of our products, and want to share your stories, we encourage you to leave a comment.
Aswan feels like Africa in a way Cairo does not. The people are darker skinned, the dusty streets full of buildings painted blue and gold, bony dogs, and thin cats with luminous eyes. Donkey carts are not uncommon, along with the tourist horse-drawn carts pulled by lean but fast horses.
We get our first glimpse of the real Nile in Aswan, not a tamed city-thing as it is in Cairo, but a bright swath of blue bordered by intense green before dropping off into the most desolate desert I have ever seen. It’s so easy to see why the Nile has been a lifeline, a heartbeat, and a god in Egypt.
We ride a motorboat to Philae, a Greek-period temple dedicated to Isis, the holy mother and patroness of magic. Incredibly, the site was carved into 41,000 pieces and transferred from a nearby island when the construction of the Aswan High Dam would have left it submerged. You wouldn’t know it to look at it: the temple floats serenely on its green island, with graceful pylons and a wide courtyard.
Despite its relocation, there remains an air of reverence around this place. Standing in the inner sanctum of the temple, where the gold statue and the very spirit of the goddess once dwelt, remains a powerful experience.
That evening, we had our first real taste of Egyptian market life at the Spice Market. It’s not for the faint of heart. At first, my mother and I had a ball at a great spice shop, spending a small fortune on saffron and other choice spices. But once we ventured out of this safe haven, we found ourselves beset on every side by merchants.
“I will help you spend your money,” they cried. “Just look—no hassle!” “No hassle” are the most misunderstood words in the English language, and the shop keepers never managed to understand the irony that when they said this, they were in fact hassling us.
When bargaining in an Egyptian market, remember to start your bargaining low. We often had merchants offering starting prices of over 100 times the final price. They may also switch back and forth between dollars and Egyptian pounds to try to confuse you—stay firm.
At the end of the evening, we were glad to retreat to our hotel and survey the damage to our wallets in peace and quiet. After all, we had an early morning ahead of us: a three-hour bus ride to Abu Simbel, the great temple to Ramses the Great.
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