Abebe Bikila, A Man of Indispensible Personality with Priceless Result

April 25, 2011

By Lulseged Bekele

Ordinarily, no one takes much notice when a new athlete enters into the spotlight. But when the Ethiopian athlete showed up for the second time in the Rome Olympics, in 1960, everyone was caught by surprise for one clear reason: the bare-footed Abebe Bikila emerged winner in the most grueling marathon race with a time of 2:15:16.2 which was a new world best by a less than a second while the dethroned record holder Emile Zatopek of Czechoslovakia, finished fifth.

Even more so, unlike all his predecessors from 1908 to 1960 who were on the brink of collapse and fell several times before officials helped them cross the line, Abebe made it with style adding a couple of laps and some fitness exercise. For instance, Italy’s Dorado Pietre finished in 2:54:46.4 with the help of officials.

The victory of Abebe in Rome is special to Ethiopia in at least one thing: as Reuter Dispatch sarcastically put it, once again Ethiopia emerged winner, bare-footed, on the sil of Rome. This was to remind the world that the Ethiopians have won over Italians during the resistance movement.

The Rome Olympic Marathon race had also four special qualities: it was the first to start and end outside the stadium, the first to be won by a black African and the first where a bare-footed athlete won.

In light of this Abebe’s victory was a history for the whole of Africa too since Africa’s first participation in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games where only Ghana and Nigeria were present, Abebe’s gold medal was the only reward that Africa earned.

Abebe’s victory didn’t stop in Rome. Four years later, in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. he emerged a comfortable winner by setting yet another new world record at 2:12:11.2. Abebe, as a result, became the first marathoner in the history of the Olympic Games to break his own record in the marathon. As a matter of fact, Abebe would have had a third victory in Mexico in 1968, but injury prevented him from completing the competition.

One finds it difficult to tell the birth date of an individual in a country where birth certificates are little know. Abebe’s case is no exception. As we have witnessed, different sources give him different birth dates. Examples: the official source says that he was 28 when he won gold in Rome in 1960. According to this source, he was born in 1932. The English Merha Sport issue of January 1, 1989, took it back to 1928. It is generally agreed that he was born on the 5th of September 1933.

He was born in North Shoa at a place called Jetto Bina Deneba near Debre Berhan from his father Bikila Demissie and mother Woodenesh Beneberu. Abebe grew up with his brother Kinfu Bikila and sister Aschaletch Temtime. Like many in the country, he spent his early ages herding cattle and helping his parents. As he grew up he showed an interest in Guggs (traditional horse racing), Hokey Games, etc.

His athletic talents were best seen upon his entry into the Imperial Body Guard in 1953. Oddly enough, it is confirmed, Abebe was dropped from enrolment in the army in 1948 due to his youngish age after five days of stay at the military camp. In 1957, he got married to Miss Yewubdar W/Giorogis and was to have six children, of whom two died.

Abebe was paralysed from the waist down for the rest of his life in a car accident which occurred while driving back home from Sheno to Addis Ababa on the 14th of March 1968. He was flown to London to the Stockmandville Hospital.

Interestingly enough, though confined to a wheelchair, his athletic prowess never came to an end. He completed in archery and won special prizes in the 25 km and 10 km stage race in Britain and Norway. He died on October 25, 1973, at the Imperial Body Guard Hospital and buried the next day at St. Joseph Church in the presence of the former Emperor Haile Selassie.

But despite his untimely death, the great Abebe Bikila is survived by his four children: Dawit 28, Tsige 25, Yetnayet 22, and Teferia 20.

In his eight years athletic career, he scored several spectacular victories.

Melaku says:

Following the footsteps of Abebe Bikila, many young athletic heroes, such as Miruth Yifter, Haile Gebreselassie, and Kenesa Bekele, Derartu Tulu, Gete Wami, and many others, made athletics a sports tradition of Ethiopia.

Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity

April 23, 2011

The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 13th-century ‘New Jerusalem’ are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilmigrage and devotion.

The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are exceptionally fine examples of a long-established Ethiopian building tradition. Monolithic churches are to be found all over the north and the centre of the country. Some of the oldest of such churches are to be found in Tigray, where some are believed to date from around the 6th or 7th centuries. King Lalibela is believed to have commissioned these structures with the purpose of creating a holy and symbolic place which considerably influenced Ethiopian religious beliefs.

The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 13th-century ‘New Jerusalem’ are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilgrimage and devotion.

Lalibela is a small town at an altitude of almost 2,800 m in the Ethiopian highlands. It is surrounded by a rocky, dry area. Here in the 13th century devout Christians began hewing out the red volcanic rock to create 13 churches. Four of them were finished as completely free-standing structures, attached to their mother rock only at their bases. The remaining nine range from semi-detached to ones whose facades are the only features that have been ‘liberated’ from the rock.

The Jerusalem theme is important. The rock churches, although connected to one another by maze-like tunnels, are physically separated by a small river which the Ethiopians named the Jordan. Churches on one side of the Jordan represent the earthly Jerusalem; whereas those on the other side represent the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of jewels and golden sidewalks alluded to in the Bible.

It was King Lalibela who commissioned the structures, but scholars disagree as to his motivation. According to a legendary account, King Lalibela was born in Roha. His name means ‘the bee recognizes its sovereignty’. God ordered him to build 10 monolithic churches, and gave him detailed instructions as to their construction and even their colours. When his brother Harbay abdicated, the time had come for Lalibela to fulfil this command. Construction work began and is said to have been carried out with remarkable speed, which is scarcely surprising, for, according to legend, angels joined the labourers by day and at night did double the amount of work which the men had done during the hours of daylight.

Like more episodes in the long history of this country, there are many legends about this king. One is that Lalibela was poisoned by his brother and fell into a three-day coma in which he was taken to Heaven and given a vision of rock-hewn cities. Another legend says that he went into exile to Jerusalem and vowed that when he returned he would create a New Jerusalem. Others attribute the building of the churches to Templars from Europe.

The names of the churches evoke hints of Hebrew, a language related to the Hamo-Semitic dialect still used in Ethiopian church liturgies: Beta Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World), Beta Qedus Mikael (House of St Michael) and Beta Amanuel (House of Emmanuel) are all reminiscent of the Hebrew beth (house). In one of the churches there is a pillar covered with cotton. A monk had a dream in which he saw Christ kissing it; according to the monks, the past, the present and the future are carved into it. The churches are connected to each other by small passages and tunnels.

Source: UNESCO


The modern Ethiopian civilization on the northern plateau of Tana

April 23, 2011

The World Heritage site is an outstanding testimony of the modern Ethiopian civilization on the northern plateau of Tana. The characteristics of the style of the Gondar period appeared at the beginning of the 17th century in the capital city and have subsequently marked Ethiopian architecture in a long-lasting manner.

Flanked by twin mountain streams at an altitude of more than 2,300 m, Gondar was founded by Emperor Fasilidas who, tiring of the pattern of migration that had characterized the lifestyle of so many of his forefathers, moved his capital here in 1636, a role that it filled until 1864. It is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches. No one knows exactly why Fasilidas chose to establish his headquarters there. Some legends say an archangel prophesied that an Ethiopian capital would be built at a place with a name that began with the letter G. The legend led to a whole series of 16th- and 17th-century towns: Guzara, Gorgora, and finally Gondar. Another legend claims that the city was built in a place chosen by God, who pointed it out to Fasilidas who had followed a buffalo there when hunting.

The main castle, which stands today in a grassy compound surrounded by later fortresses, was built in the late 1630s and early 1640s on the orders of Fasilidas. With its huge towers and looming battlemented walls, it resembles a piece of medieval Europe transposed to Ethiopia. In addition to this castle, Fasiladas is said to have been responsible for the building of a number of other structures, perhaps the oldest of which is the Enqulal Gemb (Egg Castle), so named on account of its egg-shaped domed roof.

Beyond the confines of the city to the north-west by the Qaha River there is another fine building sometimes associated by Fasilidas, a bathing palace. The building is a two-storeyed battlemented structure situated within and on one side of a rectangular pool of water which was supplied by a canal from the nearby river. The bathing pavilion itself stands on pier arches, and contains several rooms reached by a stone bridge, part of which could be raised for defence. The Emperor, who was greatly interested in architecture was also responsible for seven churches and a number of bridges.

Iyasu the Great, a grandson of Fasilidas, was particularly active. His castle was described at the time as finer than the House of Solomon. Its inner walls were decorated with ivory, mirrors and paintings of palm trees and its ceiling was covered with gold-leaf and precious stones. Iyasu’s most lasting achievement was the Church of Debra Berhan Selassie (Light of the Trinity), which stands surrounded by a high wall on raised ground to the north-west of the city and continues in regular use. A plain, thatched, rectangular structure on the outside, the interior of Debra Berhan Selassie is marvellously painted with scenes from religious history. The north wall is dominated by a depiction of the Trinity above the Crucifixion; the theme of the south wall is St Mary and that of the east wall the life of Jesus. The west wall shows major saints, with St George in red and gold on a prancing white horse.

Not long after completing this remarkable and impressive work, Iyasu went into deep depression when his favourite concubine died. He abandoned affairs of state and his son, Tekla Haimanot, declared himself Emperor and killed his father. Tekla Haimanot was in his turn murdered; his successor was also forcibly deposed and the next monarch was poisoned. The brutalities came to an end with Emperor Bakaffa, who left two fine castles, one attributed directly to him and the other to his consort, the Empress Mentewab.

Bakaffa’s successor, Iyasu II, is regarded by most historians as the last of the Gondar Emperors to rule with full authority. During his reign, work began on a whole range of new buildings outside the main palace compound. The monarch also developed the hills north-west of the city centre known as Kweskwam (after the home of the Virgin Mary).

Source: UNESCO

Ethiopia-The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum

April 23, 2011

The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum are located close to Ethiopia’s northern border. They mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and 13th centuries, include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.

Beginning around the 2nd millennium BCE and continuing until the 4th century CE there was immigration into the Ethiopian region. The immigrants came mostly from a region of western Yemen associated with the Sabean culture. Conditions in their homelands were most probably so harsh that the only means of escape was by a direct route across the Red Sea into Eritrea. By the 4th century, Aksum was already at its peak in land sovereignty, which included most of southern Yemen.

The city of Aksum emerged several centuries before the birth of Christ, as the capital of a state that traded with ancient Greece, Egypt and Asia. With its fleets sailing as far afield as Ceylon, Aksum later became the most important power between the Roman Empire and Persia, and for a while controlled parts of South Arabia. Aksum, whose name first appears in the 1st century AD in the Periplus of the Eritrean Sea, is considered to be the heart of ancient Ethiopia. Indeed, the kingdom which held sway over this area at this time took its name from the city. The ruins of the site spread over a large area and are composed of tall, obelisk-like stelae of imposing height, an enormous table of stone, vestiges of columns and royal tombs inscribed with Aksumite legends and traditions. In the western sector of the city there are also the ruins of three castles from the 1st century AD.

The earliest records and legends suggest that it was from Aksum that Makeda, the fabled Queen of Sheba, journeyed to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem. A son was born to the queen from her union with Solomon. This son, Menelik I, grew up in Ethiopia but travelled to Jerusalem as a young man, where he spent several years before returning to his own country with the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark, according to Ethiopian belief, has remained in Aksum ever since (in an annex to the Church of St Mary of Zion).

 In addition to the old St Mary of Zion church, there are many other remains in Aksum dating back to pre- and early Christian times. Among these, a series of inscriptions on stone tablets have proved to be of immense importance to historians of the ancient world. They include a trilingual text in Greek, Sabaean (the language of South Arabia) and Ge’ez (classical Ethiopian), ordered by King Ezana in the 4th century AD, along with the 3,000-year-old stelae and obelisks. The standing obelisk rises to a height of over 23 m and is exquisitely carved to represent a nine-storey building in the fashion of the ‘tower-houses’ of southern Arabia.

Aksum inherited a culture highly influenced by southern Arabia. The Aksumites’ language, Ge’ez, was a modified version of the southern Arabian rudiments, with admixtures of Greek and perhaps Cushitic tongues already present in the region. Their architectural art was inherited from southern Arabian art; some Aksumite artwork contained combinations of Middle Eastern deities.

From its capital on the Tigray Plateau, Aksum was in command of the ivory trade with Sudan. It also dominated the trade route leading south and the port of Adulis on the Gulf of Zola. Its success depended on resourceful techniques, the production of coins, steady migrations of Graeco-Roman merchants and ships landing at the port of Adulis. In exchange for Aksum’s goods, traders offered many kinds of cloth, jewellery and metals, especially steel for weapons.

At its peak, Aksum controlled territories as far as southern Egypt, east to the Gulf of Aden, south to the Omo River, and west to the Cushite Kingdom of Meroë. The South Arabian kingdom of the Himyarites was also under the control of Aksum. Unlike the nobility, the people used salt and iron bars as money and barter remained their main source of commerce.

World heritage site-Ethiopia 


Fasil Ghebbi Gondar Region-1979

Harar Jugol, The Fortifed Historic Town-2006

Lower valley of the Awash-1980

Lower Valley of the Omo-1980

Rock-hewn Church, Lalibela-1978


Source: UNESCO

Island Escapes-Jamaica

April 18, 2011


As the third largest Caribbean island (after Cuba and Hispaniola), Jamaica has hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline. The beaches of Jamaica are some of the finest in the Caribbean. Some Jamaica beaches are lively, fun-filled places, packed with young sunbathers listening to loud reggae music, other beaches in Jamaica are serene, secluded stretches of white sand perfect for relaxing and unwinding.

There are top Jamaica beaches in or near all the major resort towns. The long, crescent-shaped Turtle Beach in Ocho Rios is one of the most popular beaches in Jamaica. Like many other Jamaican beaches, it is now surrounded by hotels and resorts. For a more secluded beach in Ocho Rios, try the in-town Island Village Beach or nearby Reggae Beach, a few miles east of town.

Runaway Bay is most famous for its great scuba diving, but the town also has some good Jamaican beaches. Most Runaway Bay Jamaica beaches are owned by resorts, but the Cardiff Hall Public Beach is free and open to the public.

The area around Port Antonio in northeast Jamaica is known for its great natural beauty. Frenchman’s Cove, San San Beach, and the Blue Lagoon bring this beauty right to the sea; they are some of the prettiest beaches in Jamaica. Nearby Boston Beach is the place to go for authentic Jamaican jerk chicken.

Montego Bay has some of the most famous beaches in Jamaica: Doctor’s Cave Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach. They are both divinely beautiful stretches of white sand, but because they are located in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, they can be some of the most crowded beaches of Jamaica. The crowds have an upside, though: Montego Bay Jamaica beaches have an almost permanent party vibe.

Seven Mile Beach (or Negril Beach) in Negril is the longest of all beaches in Jamaica. With crystal clear waters, sugary soft white sand, and swaying palms, Seven Mile Beach is known as perhaps the most beautiful of all Jamaican beaches. There are several other good Jamaican beaches near Negril. Bloody Bay Beach to the north of town is a good place to go if you are looking for a little more isolation than offered by Seven Mile Beach.

Most visitors to Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city, go there not for the beaches, but for the vibrant nightlife or cultural sites like the Bob Marley Museum. Nevertheless, there are great Jamaican beaches even near this busy city. Hellshire Beach and Fort Clarence are the closest beaches the city. Fort Clarence is one of the best-known beaches in Jamaica, famous for its regular reggae concerts.

No vacation to Jamaica is complete without a few afternoons spent lounging on Jamaican beaches. Enjoying the beaches of Jamaica is as much a part of a Jamaican vacation as eating jerk chicken and listening to reggae.

10 Myths About Travel Agents

April 4, 2011

1.    Myth: All Travel Agents and Agencies are the Same
Fact: Every travel agent is different and has a different area that they specialize in. So, depending on what type of trip you are looking to take one travel agent will suit you better than another. That’s why it is important when planning a trip to find a travel agent that specializes in where you want to go.

2.    Myth:  No One Uses  Travel Agents Anymore
Fact: Travel agents still sell 51 percent of all airline tickets, 87 percent of all cruises, 81 percent of all tours and packages, 45 percent of all car rentals and about 47 percent of all hotels.*

3.    Myth: Travel Agents are Trying to Cheat Me if They Don’t Quote Me the Cheapest Price
Fact: Travel agents know the ins and outs of different itineraries. While you might find one that is a little bit cheaper, that cheaper itinerary might involve a whole slew of headaches.  For example, longer waits at the airport and odd travel times.  A travel agent will be looking to get you the best value for you money spent which should include the most direct and time friendly itinerary they can find. – Unless you have told them you would prefer to have the cheaper options presented as well expect value to be a factor included in the trip they plan.

4.    Myth:  It is Expensive to Use a Travel Agent
Fact:  The fee a travel agent charges really depends upon the agent. While some of the more luxury agencies have higher fees, the average fee is quite marginal. Some travel agents will even drop the fee or offer a discount once you have finalized your trip with them. Plus, you can always ask an agent upfront what their fees are and decide for yourself if it’s worth it. Also, it is important to remember that a lot of online booking sites, such as Orbitz and Expedia, charge a booking fee as well.

5.    Myth:  I Can Easily Book the Same Trip on My Own Without Using A Travel Agent.
Fact:  Although travel agents have access to all of the same outlets you would use when looking to book travel, they also have access to exclusive pricing and package deals that are most times not available to the public. Your travel agent also has more leverage in helping out in situations such as hotels claiming to be booked, when in fact they may still have rooms available that are on hold for travel agents reservations. So when everyone else is telling you “No” your travel agent can help turn that to a “Yes.”

6.    Myth: Travel Agents Don’t Have Information as Updated as the Internet
Fact: Travel agents obtain some of their information from the same sources as online booking sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity. They also receive daily emails and faxes with new specials from resorts and hotels that may not be published on the internet. Travel agents can also call a place directly to see if they can work out other kinds of special deals for you, something an online site can’t do.  

7.    Myth: Travel Agents Are a Waste of Time
Fact: Although you can find much of the same information that the travel agent provides for you on your own, you are going to spend a lot of valuable time doing so.  A travel agent can actually save you from hours of painful research and price comparison shopping.  They have up to date prices, hotel conditions, and interesting new activities. Their prior knowledge and experience gives them the upper hand in trip planning.

8.    Myth: Travel Agents Have Lost Their Clout
Fact: Travel agents book hotels, cruises, and activities every day. The companies that provide these services know that and want their business and will work to keep that business coming back. So while a place might be telling you “Sorry we are booked,” for your one time trip, they are more likely to make an acceptation for the travel agent to insure that the agent sends them more business in the future. 

9.    Myth:  Good Travel Agents are Hard to Find
Fact:  While there are some below par travel agents out there, sources such as Tripology are great outlets to go to find reliable specialized travel agents that will match your needs.

10.    Myth:  Travel Agents Can Only Book My Flight and Hotel
Fact:  Travel agents can arrange car service, personalized tours and activities, in addition to all the basic travel services they provide. They are also excellent sources of information concerning good restaurants, good sites to see, and tips on what to pack.

*Source: American Society of Travel Agents

Jordan-A Historical Haven

April 2, 2011

Full of historic adventure and desert mystery, Jordan not only manages to remain one of the most stable, modern and safe places in the Middle East, but also one of the most welcoming, hospitable countries in the world.

The locals love showing people around, for they’re proud of their country. And proud they should be, for Jordan specializes in showing why the Middle East is like no place else on the planet. With a capital city dating back to biblical times, well-preserved examples of Greco-Roman architecture and some of the world’s most significant historical attractions set in dramatic terrain, Jordan’s position as a premier travel destination is undeniable.

Also undeniable is the kingdom’s rich and vast heritage. For 10,000 years travelers have been swept up in the hustle of Amman, followed in the footsteps of prophets up Mount Nebo, gawked at the lost city of Petra, ridden a camel across T.E. Lawrence’s famous dessert Wadi Rum, descended to the lowest point on earth for a luxurious float on the Dead Sea or lounged at Aqaba, the Red Sea Riviera.

Biblical landmarks, lost cities, Lawrence of Arabia — Jordan’s got a lot going for it. To have a lot going for you on your trip to Jordan, contact a local travel agent. Travel agents know that you don’t need divine intervention to enjoy a trip to this holy land when a solid itinerary with trusted tour operators will provide the perfect vacation experience.

Ancient Church at Petra
Photo by TravelSense
Community member HobWahid

Most tours of Jordan begin in the capital city of Amman, known in history’s oldest texts as Rabbath-Ammon and Philadelphia. Centrally located, Amman is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities of the world, hosting an active civilization for more than 5,000 years. It was once part of the Decapolis—a league of 10 Greco-Roman cities—and the grand Roman style is still highly evident at the Amphitheatre, an imposing monument set into the side of a mountain that holds 6,000 spectators and dates back to 169 A.D.

Another member of the Decapolis is the ancient city Jerash. Although sometimes overshadowed by Petra, Jerash is lauded today as one of the largest and best-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside of Italy. It makes for a superb daytrip from Amman, where a one-hour drive will teleport you 2,000 years back in time. Life in ancient times comes alive as you enter through the monumental South Gate and into the spacious Oval Plaza before walking down the Cordo, the street of columns, and over chariot tracks still visible in the stones.

Jerash, along with Jordan’s other sights, fall well behind Petra in terms of sheer, jaw-dropping impact; but so do most things in the world. Petra, the Rose Red City, is so well hidden in the canyons that it was lost to the world for 1,000 years until its re-discovery in 1812. Most people have seen pictures of these massive, improbable buildings of stone carved entirely into naturally pink rocks and not believed they actually exist. Seeing is not only believing, but also mind-blowing.

The legacy of the gifted Nabataeans, industrious Arabs who settled in the south of Jordan 2,000 years ago, Petra includes hundreds of buildings, facades, tombs and haunting rock drawings. Visitors enter through the siq—a narrow, 1.2 kilometer-long gorge with 100-meter cliffs on either side—before turning the last corner to become stunned at the sudden appearance of the Treasury, Al Khazneh, a 43-meter tall tomb. Upon this first glimpse of Petra, you’ll understand why many call it the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

Wadi Rum could rightfully be called a wonder of the natural world. The inspiration for Lawrence of Arabia, Wadi Rum is a vast desert landscape, both silent and surreal, where massive mountains wrought by time into unique, twisted shapes rise out of the sand. The only inhabitants are a few thousand villagers and Bedouin nomads. There are no hotels, for travelers head out on camels for overnight stays in tents to enjoy this cathedral of nature, staring up at stars and ingesting the timeless solitude of the area.

Many landmarks of Christianity are scattered throughout Jordan, an essential piece of the Holy Lands, serving as pilgrimage sites to believers. Heading this list is Mount Nebo, where Moses

sculpture on Mount Nebo
Mt. Nebo
Photo by TravelSense
Community member DrMaximus

viewed the Promised Land he would never enter, for he is supposedly buried nearby. Also popular are the Sanctuary of Lot near the Dead Sea, where Lot and his daughters escaped when fleeing the destruction of Sodom, and Bethany beyond the Jordan, the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

Christian travelers, along with those from around the globe, are visiting Jordan now more than ever, and the country is sometimes beleaguered by the inflow, limiting the numbers allowed at sacred sites like Petra. Under these circumstances, it’s wise to seek the professional guidance of a travel agent to find reputable tours of Jordan that guarantee admissions to Petra and all of the country’s highlights.

Once on a travel agent-approved tour, you’ll be rewarded with Jordan, a historic destination of incomparable grandeur. Contact a trusted travel agent today and relish in the history and the peace of this Middle East retreat.

Source: Travelsense.org

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