Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Last day and coming home

I got all packed up and made pizza dough/pizza for din­ner while Mohamed and Erica went to a back-to-school night for Abdu. I had brought Abdu home after going to the Island Rec Club my last day, and Erica took Mauski for the sec­ond day of try­ing to get her fin­ger­printed. The kids and Erica helped when Mauski and Erica got home. Din­ner turned out great. Erica and Mohamed ate after they got home while the kids and I were upstairs watch­ing a movie.

Later, I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. The last cou­ple hours before my cab came to take me to the air­port (at 2:30 am), I spent just lying in bed and rest­ing beside Mauski. My flight was at 5:15 am and I arrived back at LAX at 10:45 am the same day. Wow.

For any of you who have trav­eled a lot, this photo jour­nal will prob­a­bly be bor­ing. But there are a few things that even you may not have seen. I flew on Saudia Air­lines, the offi­cial air­line of Saudi Ara­bia. They had the only non­stop flight to and from Jed­dah from LAX.

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Abdu… the mas­ter of dress­ing in layers

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In the back of the cab on the way to Jed­dah. The cab dri­ver was nice and asked if I would like to live in Saudi Ara­bia. I said no, that I liked where I live. But I like to visit. He was quite talkative.

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This is the gate for my flight. These guys were just loung­ing there until about half an hour before our flight was sup­posed to leave. The mens’ line is on the left with the tra­di­tional metal detec­tor like we have in the US. I’m in front of the women’s entrance. I had to put my carry-on and my purse on the x-ray con­veyor belt, then go into the enclosed area where there were sev­eral women wait­ing. One had a metal detect­ing wand and asked that I put my arms out to the sides while she went over every inch of me with that thing. When it beeped, she would check to make sure it was jew­elry under my scarf, or what­ever. Same thing turned away from her. This was the sec­ond booth I had to go through like this. They had me start up my lap­top com­puter when I got out of the booth and they checked my Nikon as well. Any secu­rity check in the air­port didn’t have the ‘no liq­uids’ sym­bols and the like… they had sym­bols for ‘no hand­guns’… ‘no bombs’… that type of thing. It was pretty strange.

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This was the glass enclosed area we were to wait in until they were ready to trans­port us to the plane. At that point, we were all herded down the esca­la­tor and ONE guy was there to check to make sure we all had a cer­tain stamp in our pass­ports that we were to have received at an ear­lier stop in the air­port cus­toms area. We then got on to a tram and were dri­ven out to our plane.

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Out the win­dow of the plane before takeoff

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Awhile after they served break­fast, they brought around these hot ‘cheese sand­wiches’ and wee muffins. Of course there was no alco­hol served on the plane.

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Some of the rotat­ing views on my monitor

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Some of the cen­sor­ing shown here in a movie I watched. Any time there was cleav­age or short skirts/shorts, that area on a woman would be pix­e­lated. Pro­fan­ity was also censored.

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The cabin inte­rior. The flight was maybe one quar­ter capacity.

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Yes, it was a VERY long flight… over 16 1/2 hours long via the polar route, but thank­fully a non-stop. No point in mak­ing it even longer!

Get­ting closer…

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For din­ner, I had the mas­soud… a type of fish served with spicy bas­mati rice. There was also a ‘seafood salad’ that looked like I might get food poi­son­ing (the mayo looked old), but I did fine. I didn’t eat the let­tuce in the salad. It was awful. Or the tomato. That is some kind of white bun, a date and wal­nut cake for dessert, and tea.

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It looked bet­ter on the menu, but then gen­er­ally air­line food is uni­ver­sally bad. I couldn’t wait to get home to fresh produce!

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Snow on the Rock­ies… feels good to be in the US again.

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A suc­cess­ful land­ing at LAX. Cus­toms was a breeze (elec­tronic dec­la­ra­tion machines) and a ‘wel­come home’ from the cus­toms offi­cer. Happy to be home. And although it was hot when I landed, it has since cooled down. Glad I didn’t miss all the cool weather!

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Frustrating day that ended well

There’s a new law in Saudi Ara­bia that all non-Saudi cit­i­zens need to be fin­ger­printed, down to age 7. So Erica arranged to take Mauski out of school early to take her down to get fin­ger­printed. What a fiasco. They stopped tak­ing peo­ple an hour before they were due to close, which was before we could get there. We con­tin­ued our trek, but they had closed the que. The next day was basi­cally the same sit­u­a­tion, so Erica com­plained and the third time was appar­ently the charm, prob­a­bly because she had spo­ken up. Good thing, because after that, they were telling peo­ple they had to go get it done in Jed­dah and stand in lines start­ing at 5 am!

Wait­ing in the shade for the bus to come

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The bus we wanted to take appar­ently skipped our stop and we had to wait for the next one, about a half an hour in the heat, while oth­ers came and went by car.

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The fin­ger­print­ing truck

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In the mean­time, we stopped in at a bank across from the mosque.

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Dis­cov­ery Square

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Wait­ing for the bus

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Later that evening, Erica and Mohamed finally went on a date while I watched the kids. They helped me make din­ner, and we watched The Three Mousketeers.

 

Back to da island

Another beau­ti­ful (and hot) day, so we decide to go back to the island. Well, actu­ally, every day was pretty much the same. It’s pretty hot here, even in the win­ter. Add a good dose of humid­ity, and you have a need to dip your­self in cool water… espe­cially after a work­out. Abdu was cough­ing again, so we had him with us.

Bus ‘Lay-by’ (bus stop) out­side one of the schools

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Abdu and Mauski were in the habit of gath­er­ing fallen plume­ria or other flow­ers to present to the bus dri­vers when they got on the bus. Pretty cute. He’s got his Super­man towel on.

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Rid­ing the Orange Bus on to the island

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One of many beach access areas

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Island homes

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Island Recre­ation Club

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The Wom­ens’ work­out room

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Over­look­ing Pure Cafe Restau­rant and Lounge out by the pool. I mainly used that ellip­ti­cal right in front of the window.

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Shot from the pool deck over­look­ing The Red Sea

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I waited for this class to end to get into the pool and cool off after my workout.

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It was pretty deserted mid-day dur­ing the week.

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No swim­ming” sign

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Very peace­ful here… the only sounds were the lap­ping of lit­tle waves on the rocky shore, the wind whistling through the joints of the umbrella, the rustling of palm leaves, and the occa­sional bird call.

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What a setting…

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Going on to the uni­ver­sity campus

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The bus sys­tem is the main method of get­ting around the KAUST com­mu­nity. Bicy­cles are plen­ti­ful as well. But some fam­i­lies do have cars. Dri­ving can be a lia­bil­ity, though… while it is legal for women to drive in KAUST, there is appar­ently no train­ing. As a result, many Saudi women get into acci­dents because they don’t really know how to drive. And insur­ance? Maybe not. We were in a bus one day when a Saudi woman pulled out right in front of us. She didn’t even look first. Our bus dri­ver braked and swerved to avoid a col­li­sion. I was dumbfounded.

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A secu­rity guard at the gate. Most times, you have to show your ID before they let you through upon enter­ing. But we could just hold our ID up for them. They wouldn’t come on to the bus (except at the main outer gate when we were re-entering after being in Jeddah).

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Wait­ing in front of the med­ical cen­ter for the Pur­ple Bus. That’s the one super­mar­ket across the street… Tamimi Mar­ket. There’s a small Tamimi right by the uni­ver­sity as well.

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The Red Sea Mall

So we had gone to the Mall of Ara­bia already, but Erica thought I would enjoy the Red Sea Mall, so one evening she and I took the bus to Jed­dah and stayed until 10pm or so. Here are a few of the pho­tos I took. It’s well laid out and quite nice on the inside. The out­side wasn’t as impres­sive as the Mall of Ara­bia, but appar­ently most aren’t. In case you hadn’t guessed, the Saudis love their malls.

Head­ing out of KAUST

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The check­point going out of KAUST

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The road to Jeddah

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Check­point along the free­way… KAUST buses just blow through no problem

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The streets approach­ing the mall

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The Red Sea Mall

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One of many entrances

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Going up to the ‘Bazaar’

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Many of the large ads at the mall have the faces pixelated

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A sign show­ing that there are dif­fer­ent seat­ing areas

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I was care­ful about tak­ing pho­tos of peo­ple, as it is frowned on in Saudi Ara­bia, but there are a few ran­dom sight­ings in my photos.

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I waited at a table in the fam­ily sec­tion while Erica ordered food from Al Baik, the mid­dle east­ern equiv­a­lent of fast food (but THEY have gar­lic sauce!). If you look closely, you can see a divider sep­a­rat­ing the women’s line from the men’s line for order­ing and pick­ing up food. The women’s lines are gen­er­ally much shorter.

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Chicken, fries and a bun

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Wait­ing for the bus to take us back to KAUST

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The Roshan Mall… maybe next time

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A day at The Red Sea

I wanted to go to the swim­ming beach here, so Erica and I took the Beach Bus and spent part of the day there. When we arrived, we intended to rent kayaks and walked toward that area but saw a Saudi fam­ily walk­ing out on the dock toward a boat and fol­lowed them. We ended up tak­ing the boat to the har­bor and back, about an hour total. It was beau­ti­ful and some­thing KAUST pro­vides to their res­i­dents. After that, we tried to rent kayaks, but the day was too windy and they weren’t rent­ing them out. So we just swam instead. Here are some pho­tos of the day.

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This is what the sea­weed looks like here.

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The area that had kayaks, boats, wind­surf­ing, etc.

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Going out to the boat

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Leav­ing the beach

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Some­one pulled up at a lit­tle island

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Erica with our crew behind her

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The coral reef

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Headed toward the harbor

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The KAUST Beacon

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KAUST Yacht Club

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Another shot of The Beacon

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More boats in the har­bor. You can make reser­va­tions to go snor­kel­ing or deep sea diving.

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Our cap­tain

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Boats pass­ing by on our way back to the beach

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Cen­ter for dive training

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Con­struc­tion

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Going by the check point that goes out of KAUST

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Stopover at Tamimi Market

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Mall of Arabia

So later that day, we all piled on to a bus going to the Mall of Ara­bia in Jed­dah. It takes about an hour to get there from KAUST. One of the perks is that we didn’t have to stop at the check points to have our ID’s checked, as we all had given our names and ID’s upon enter­ing the bus. KAUST does have quite a few ben­e­fits. So we left at 5:30 pm and got there an hour later, then had to be back to catch the bus at 11 to arrive back at KAUST a lit­tle after mid­night. The var­i­ous neigh­bor­hood buses were all wait­ing when we returned, so we got on the Pur­ple Bus to come home and he drove us straight to our house. The bus dri­vers know where peo­ple live, since it’s such a small com­mu­nity and most peo­ple take the bus to get around.

Again, these are all just with my iPhone with no flash. And many were on the bus, which blurred them a bit. These pho­tos show a lot more peo­ple than oth­ers in pub­lic places that I’ve posted. They were enough at a dis­tance that I didn’t think it would be a prob­lem. Mostly the women are in black and the men are in white or West­ern attire.

Leav­ing KAUST

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The sun set on our way to Jeddah.

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As you can see, it’s mostly desert with a few small towns. I’ve noticed that when peo­ple pull off to the side of the road, they pull WAY out (much more than we would in our des­ig­nated shoulders).

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Com­ing into Jed­dah… it’s a huge city.

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Get­ting off the bus.

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The Mall of Ara­bia. Pretty, isn’t it?

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Here I am with Mauski. I wore black and cov­ered my hair.

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A line of taxis wait­ing out in front.

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Just inside the entrance.

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We got there around the time of next to the last prayer of the day, so shortly after that, the stores opened again after being closed for half an hour or so. We made our way to the bath­rooms upstairs. The prayer rooms are inside and off to the side of the bathrooms.

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We were in Cen­tre­point for a few min­utes before they started announc­ing clo­sure for the last prayer. After­ward, they turned out the lights and closed the front gates.

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We ordered our din­ner from this place serv­ing Yemeni food. It was Muta­baqiah Yemeniyah and very tasty. One cheese and the other spinach? Any­way, it was really good.

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This is Panda, the gro­cery store inside the mall, where we met Mohamed after he’d done a lit­tle shopping.

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A cou­ple shots of the bath­room. I dis­cov­ered AFTER I used this that there were also some reg­u­lar toi­lets available.

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On the bus going home.

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One of the check points we didn’t need to stop for.

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There were an amaz­ing num­ber of trucks pulled off to the side of the road on our way home, pre­sum­ably with the dri­vers sleeping.

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One of the two check­points com­ing back into Kaust. They did check our ID’s at this point.

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Girl Scouts

Erica was sick, so I took Mauski to Girl Scouts on Fri­day, the first day of their week­end here. We took the Pur­ple Bus to Tamimi Mar­ket, then took the Orange Bus to the Island where her troop meets. The girls had been split into three groups the week before and Mauski had done paint­ing already. This week was first aid. They learned how to do the Heim­lich Manuever and prac­ticed… one girl was chok­ing, another was her friend, and a third was the teacher. They learned the uni­ver­sal sign for chok­ing. Then they put together their very own first aid kits, with a lit­tle clown­ing around thrown in.

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Putting their first aid kits together

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Look­ing toward the gar­den inside the club

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Paint­ings done by another group

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Clos­ing song

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Views of KAUST on our way home

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KAUST Harbor Sports Club

Got a work­out in today and Erica took the kids bowl­ing here at KAUST Har­bor Sports Club. It’s a beau­ti­ful club right by the Island. We picked up some things on the way and took the scenic route.

Some beau­ti­ful plume­ria trees where the kids and I col­lected some fallen flow­ers that were still in good shape.

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The canal com­ing in from The Red Sea…

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The first homes on the island

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KAUST Har­bor Sports Club

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The track

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Ten­nis courts

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Near the entrance

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The Wom­ens’ Pool… I was the only one in the pool the whole time!

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Wait­ing for the Orange Bus

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Going home

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Girls’ night out

In the midst of (almost) every­one being sick, Erica, Mauski and I man­aged to have a girls’ night out. We went to the the­ater to see Annie, then had some Lebanese food after­ward. It was a two-hour movie, and Mauski got a lit­tle antsy, but did fine. Fun evening!

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It’s hard to see, but this is Mauski danc­ing on stage dur­ing the cred­its. This girl def­i­nitely has the enter­tain­ment gene!

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Wait­ing for our food…

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Yum! This was delicious!

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Dis­cov­ery Square

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