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Darn Good Digs in Africa and the Middle East

Darn Good Digs are the world's best independently owned accommodations for budget-minded travelers, all with rooms under US$150. Darn Good Digs stand out for their originality, spectacular locations, scrumptious food, and great vibes.

Africa: GhanaMalawiMoroccoSouth AfricaTanzaniaUgandaZambia

Middle East: IsraelSyria

  =   Editors' Choice


beyin beach resort beyin beach resort beyin beach resort beyin beach resort

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Beyin, Ghana: Beyin Beach Resort
Nominated By: Matt Beatty, Provo, Utah, December '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at hostelbookers

Price Range: # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Beyin Beach Resort so Darn Good? Gorgeous and tidy, the Beyin Beach Resort has oceanside bungalows with doors that open wide to the sea. Seashells and sand dollars wash up all day, and an abandoned 18th century fort, Fort Apollonia, lies a few hundred yards down the beach in Beyin, where young boys play football nearby.

Location: The small resort sits in a coconut grove alongside a beautiful white sand beach on the Atlantic coast of southwestern Ghana. Six hours from Accra, the tiny beachside village of Beyin is close to the famous Nzulezo Stilt Village and the Ankasa Nature Reserve.

Rooms: The resort has four "luxury" chalets with flush toilets (royalty in Ghana!) and wide bamboo doors that open out to the ocean, as well as three "economy" rooms with a shared bath. We slept soundly to the swishing of the sea all night.

Food: An open-air restaurant serves delicious traditional Ghanaian dishes, as well as standard American and Italian staples.

Vibe: Beyin Beach Resort is mellow and low-key, and Patrick and Nina, its proprietors, are kind and soft-spoken. In an effort to raise awareness and provide protection for the endangered marine turtles that nest along the shore, they have joined with local fishermen to found the Beyin Turtle Conservation Project . From August through March, guests who book a "Turtle Conservation Holiday" can assist in the gathering and re-nesting of eggs, the monitoring of hatcheries, and the releasing of baby turtles into the sea.

Keep in Mind: Definitely keep the doors open at night. Nothing beats the curtains billowing in the sea breeze. Also, ask to eat breakfast or lunch in the small concrete "room" down *in* the beach.

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the green backpackers

Traveler Favorite

Mitzpe Ramon, Israel: The Green Backpackers
 Nominated By: Adam Groffman of Travels of Adam, Berlin, Germany, February, '13

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: 75 ILS - 265 ILS # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes The Green Backpackers so Darn Good? "The hostel, only one year old, is small but the atmosphere on the inside is big. When you first arrive at the hostel, you step right into a living room; it feels immediately like a home." Read more.

belfers dead sea cabins belfers dead sea cabins belfers dead sea cabins belfers dead sea cabins

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Neot Hakikar, Israel: Belfer's Dead Sea Cabins
Nominated By: Buzzy Gordon, author of Frommer's Jerusalem Day by Day, from Fennville, Michigan, December '09

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Price Range: US$110-$170 # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Belfer's Dead Sea Cabins so Darn Good? Belferís newly-built cabins in the healthful Dead Sea region are cozy for couples, yet ideal for families as well. Bikes are provided free of charge, and are perfect for exploring the surrounding mountain and desert landscape.

Location: The cabins are located in Neot Hakikar, a small moshav, or cooperative agricultural community, twenty minutes south of the closest Dead Sea beach. The tiny village has a small general store, bar, and seasonal outdoor swimming pool with snack bar, and I enjoyed its remote desert location away from the large resort hotels in Ein Bokek.

Rooms: Each of the three private cabins contains a living area, kitchenette, bedroom, loft, and double-sized whirlpool bath. Guests can relax on their outdoor porch to take in the desert views.

Food: While the village has limited food options, the cabins all have kitchenettes and outdoor grills, so guests may want to stock up on groceries before they arrive. Also, the moshav has some great cooks who will cater your meals or picnics with advance notice, and the Belfers maintain a large organic garden where guests can pick their own vegetables.

Vibe: Belferís Dead Sea Cabins offer plenty of privacy with the benefit of very attentive hosts. Belfer is an experienced desert guide who can arrange wilderness tours in jeeps, or even on horses.

Keep in Mind: The moshav is a gated community and guests may need to call the Belfers on their cell phone to open the gate if it is closed. Also, when planning your trip, keep in mind that July and August are really, really hot in the Dead Sea area.

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mayoka village mayoka village mayoka village mayoka village

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Nkhata Bay, Malawi: Mayoka Village
Nominated By: Anonymous, Brooklyn, New York, USA, June '08

Price Range: US$6-$25 per person # of Rooms: Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Mayoka Village so Darn Good? Mayoka Village is the kind of place you come to planning on staying for a few nights, but end up staying for weeks. It's incredibly fun, cheap, and laid-back. Mayoka sits right on the shores of Lake Malawi and the views are amazing.

Location: Mayoka Village is located in the warm heart of Africa. The clear, tropical fish-filled waters of Lake Malawi are perfect for snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking, and equipment can be borrowed or rented right at Mayoka. Mayoka Village is within walking distance of the mellow resort town of Nkhata Bay, known for its highly reputable scuba diving school and white sand beaches.

Rooms: During my two years in the Peace Corps, I visited Mayoka Village no less than seven times and stayed in almost every type of room. My favorite was a chalet built on stilts with a balcony overlooking the lake. Other options include traditional mud huts and the more newly built stone cottages with private bathrooms and stone bath tubs. Those on a super tight budget can stay in a dormitory or camp out in the garden. All accommodations at Mayoka Village are built using traditional Malawian materials, such as bamboo, stone, mud, and thatch, and are spread out on a rocky hillside by the lake.

Food: The outdoor bar and restaurant serve great food using fresh, local ingredients and offer plenty of choices for vegetarians. Plus, the beer is really cheap. Gary and Katherine, Mayoka's friendly owners, host huge weekly barbecues and Malawian buffets.

Vibe: Mayoka Village has a chill, backpacker kind of feel. It's most happening on Friday nights when Gary and Katherine's famous barbecues merge into all-out dance parties, with local musicians providing the entertainment. Gary and Katherine built the lodge with the support of the community, and Mayoka continues to provide jobs and raise funds for local improvement projects.

Things to Keep in Mind: It's a bit tough to get to Mayoka Village, but well worth the journey. Also, be careful of bilharzia when swimming in certain parts of Lake Malawi.

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riad numero 9 riad numero 9 riad numero 9 riad numero 9

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Fez, Morocco: Riad Numero 9
Nominated By: Nadia Latif of Travel Intelligence, London, England, June '10

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Price Range: 100-200 Euros (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Riad Numero 9 so Darn Good? It looks Ė as with most traditional riads - like nothing from the outside, but through the metal-studded door lays a mosaic-tiled oasis of a boutique hotel. Meticulously restored by its owner Stephen, Riad Numero 9 is furnished with antiques and curios from Morocco, Europe, and the Far East.

Location: The riad is a ten-minute walk from Bab Boujeloud, the main entrance gate to Fez's medina. The city is notoriously difficult to navigate and a guide will be sent to meet you (at no extra charge) from the airport.

Rooms: Riad Numero 9 has just three suites (though there are plans to expand). I stayed in the Master Suite, which takes up an entire floor, and is split over two huge rooms connected by a birdcage-adorned walkway. The first is a bedroom/dining area and the second is a bathroom, complete with a pair of 1930s dentist chairs. The other suites are smaller, but no less lavish. All rooms have intricately carved cedar-wood ceilings, double beds and private, spacious bathrooms. The riad is very suited to exclusive rental, but rooms are also let individually.

Food: Stephen's French partner, Bruno, is a trained chef and oversees all things culinary. As is usual with these traditional Moroccan houses, breakfast is included in the room rate and all other meals are arranged on request. Take breakfast on the roof terrace, which boasts the best view of the medina that I could find. I have very fond memories of eating home-made banana jam, French toast, and hot waffles while listening to the hustle and bustle of Fez drifting up through the latticed fencing.

Vibe: The vibe at Riad Numero 9 is intimate and exclusive. I felt like I was staying in the home of a very rich, cultured friend.

Keep in Mind: Don't expect the staff to wait on you hand-and-foot; you're urged to treat the place like your own (gaspingly gorgeous) home. A selection of CDs, books, and comfy seating is positioned around the sunken Japanese table in the courtyard, and a mini-fridge stocked with wine and beer is tucked away on one of the upper levels. You're also at liberty to explore the kitchen for snacks.

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Traveler Favorite

Marrakech, Morocco: Riad Diana
 Nominated By: Dee Andrews, Boulder, Colorado, December '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: R$120-R$170 (includes breakfast) # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: Yes

Why so darn good? "Riads are a wonderful way to experience Moroccan life and culture. Many of these old homes have been lovingly restored. They are small and have the feel of a bed and breakfast. The Riad Diana has a more modern design than other riads, with cleaner and simpler decor, but it was very luxurious and upscale." Read more.


chrislin african lodge chrislin african lodge chrislin african lodge chrislin african lodge

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Addo, Sundays River Valley, South Africa: Chrislin African Lodge
Nominated By: Pamela, Charlottesville, Virginia, February '12

Price Range: R380-995 per person (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 12 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Chrislin African Lodge so Darn Good? Chrislinís traditional mud huts, refreshing pool, and delicious restaurant are set in an orange grove just minutes from the amazing Addo Elephant Park. Need I say more?

Location: An hour and a half drive from the airport in Port Elizabeth, Chrislin Lodge is located in South Africaís malaria-free Sundays River region. The Lodge is just twelve kilometers from the entrance to Addo Elephant National Park. Besides our guided wildlife safari, we spent our days canoeing down the Sundays River, visiting the Daniell Cheetah Breeding Project, and horseback riding in the park.

Rooms: Originally a working citrus farm, Crislin now offers a choice of several comfortable and airy thatched roof mud huts surrounded by the farmís orange trees. Guests may choose from two hut types, the Garden Huts or the larger and more luxurious Orchard Huts, some of which have air conditioners. A dip in the Lodgeís pool was a great way to cool off after our morning game drive, and the beautiful grounds are an excellent place to stroll.

Food: Yum! Our first evening, the chef at Sneezewoods, Chrislinís on-site restaurant, prepared a braai, or mixed BBQ, along with lovely salads, side dishes, and a good selection of South African wines. On our second night, the menu included several South African dishes, such as the tasty potjie, a traditional stew prepared outside in a cast iron pot. Breakfast is made to order and is served with freshly squeezed orange juice from the farm.

Vibe: Very relaxing. Chrislinís staff is welcoming and extremely helpful, and we always felt that everyone was taking good care of us.

Keep in Mind: We suggest staying at least three nights to explore the area, and on that note, we highly recommend Chriscross Adventures, a tour company owned by the son of Chrislin's owner, for all of your adventure needs.

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mosetlha bush camp mosetlha bush camp mosetlha bush camp mosetlha bush camp

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Madikwe Game Reserve, NW, South Africa: Mosetlha Bush Camp
Nominated By: Gerald Draper, Johannesburg, South Africa, June '08

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Price Range: R1795 per person (includes 3 meals & 2 daily safaris) # of Rooms: 9 Kid-Friendly: Over 6

What makes the Mosetlha Bush Camp so Darn Good? The Mosetlha Bush Camp is a family owned and run, unfenced eco-lodge in the heart of the Madikwe Game Reserve. The field guides are exceptionally knowledgeable, the staff is friendly and accommodating, and the service is brilliant. Birdlife at the camp is amazing and you just might get some odd visits from bigger things!

Location: Madikwe, located in North West Province on the border of Botswana, is a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria. This is Big Five country and on your morning or evening safari, you might spot elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, and leopards, as well as African wild dogs, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, hyenas, and much more!

Rooms: Mosetlha's nine open wooden cabins are simple, comfortable, and raised on platforms to keep out the crawlies! All cabins have twin beds with good mattresses and proper duvets, and shared bathrooms are just a short walk away. The eco-lodge doesn't have electricity, is lit up at night by paraffin lamps, and has safari showers heated through a donkey boiler - we're talking a true bush camp experience!

Food: Cooking at Mosetlha is done over the open fire. The traditional South African meals are fresh and plentiful, a must because you are always so hungry in this environment! Guests dine together at a huge table under the open sky, and the Bush Camp has a bar and gas fridges to keep your beer cold!

Vibe: Mosetlha is down to earth and REAL! The Lucas family goes out of their way to make you feel at home.

Things to Keep in Mind: Remember your toiletries, torch, binoculars, sunscreen, insect repellant, cash to settle your beer bill, tips, and reserve fees, and a good book - you'll have leisure time between game drives! Also, advise in advance if you are a vegetarian.

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beit rose hotel beit rose hotel beit rose hotel beit rose hotel

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Damascus, Syria: Beit Rose Hotel
Nominated By: Lena, Amman, Jordan, May '10

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Price Range: US$110-220 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 14 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Beit Rose Hotel so Darn Good? This charming hotel is small and intimate with amazing customer service.

Location: The Beit Rose Hotel is tucked on a side alley just off ancient Straight Street within the walled old city of Damascus. Over five thousand years old, Damascus is considered to be the world's oldest continuously inhabited city, and a walk through atmospheric old town is like a walk through history. Packed within the maze of narrow alleyways are Roman-era walls and ruins, Greek Orthodox churches, bustling markets, and one of Islam's greatest mosques, the Umayyad Mosque.

Rooms: Beit Rose, which occupies a traditional 18th century home, has been carefully renovated in Damascene style. The hanging plants and lanterns, refurbished antique furniture, and handmade ceramic bathroom tiles set the tone, while the comfortable beds and flat screen televisions complete the picture.

Food: Upon arrival, we were greeted with delicious Arabic tea. Later, we relaxed with evening cocktails on the rooftop terrace overlooking old Damascus, and in the morning we enjoyed a sumptuous Syrian breakfast of fresh cucumbers, cheeses, olives, hummus, and croissants by the fountain in the courtyard.

Vibe: The Beit Rose is a cozy hotel with a very helpful, yet unobtrusive, staff.

Keep in Mind: Most hotels in Syria do not allow unmarried couples to share a room; this is the only bed and breakfast that would take us, and we feel that we lucked out!

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selous river camp selous river camp selous river camp selous river camp

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania: Selous River Camp
Nominated By: John Strain, Chippenham, UK, September '11

Price Range: US$65-$125 (full board, per person) # of Rooms: 6 Kid-Friendly: Yes (but wild animals are all around)

What makes the Selous River Camp so Darn Good? I'll never forget the excitement of being awakened at night by a stampeding elephant or a whooping hyena while staying in a mud hut overlooking a river full of hippos! Not only this, but the entire camp is run so efficiently. Meals were punctual (and delicious) and the safaris were well organized, with good vehicles and extremely knowledgeable guides and drivers.

Location: Selous River Camp is surrounded by dense scrub on the banks of the Rufiji River by the Mtemere Gate, just outside the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania. Declared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1982, the Selous is home to the world's largest population of African wild dogs, the continent's highest concentration of hippos, and more than half of Tanzania's elephants. This fabulous game reserve is both the largest and oldest protected area in Africa, yet during our stay it felt largely undiscovered. From Dar es Salaam, Selous River Camp is a short flight, five hours by 4-wheel drive, or eight plus hours by bus.

Rooms: The camp has three lodging options: mud huts, canvas tents, and a campsite. The mud huts, all with lovely four-poster beds handmade from local tree branches and en-suite bathrooms with showers (some cold), have private terraces overlooking the river. Those opting to stay in the rest camp sleep in canvas tents decked out with local rope beds, safari chairs, and palm leaf mats, while visitors who bring their own tents may camp in the shady campsite.

Food: Meals at Selous River Camp are excellent, and the chefs were happy to cater to our vegetarian diets. For breakfast, we enjoyed fresh fruit, toast with marmalade and peanut butter, and eggs cooked to order. Lunch is served at camp or packed into the Land River for a Safari picnic. You just can't beat eating quiche and salad whilst wildebeests, giraffes, and zebras look on! The camp serves a three course dinner at its lovely restaurant cum bar/lounge alongside the river.

Vibe: Selous River camp was one of the most friendly, personal, and relaxing places I've ever stayed. The owners spent time really getting to know the guests, and the staff was friendly and efficient without being formal. We enjoyed relaxing in the evenings with the other guests sharing stories about the day's safari.

Keep in Mind: Wild animals sometimes enter the camp, particularly at night, but we felt quite safe, especially with the armed guards stationed around camp. The camp is very dark at night, so don't forget your torch!

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mustaphas place mustaphas place mustaphas place mustaphas place

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Zanzibar (Bwejuu), Tanzania: Mustapha's Place
Nominated By: Chandra Barbagallo, London, United Kingdom, July '10

Price Range: US$15-$30 (per person) # of Rooms: 9 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Mustapha's Place so Darn Good? Mustapha's Place is a locally owned and managed quirky and funky hotel set in leafy gardens just two minutes away from a stunning tropical beach with powdery white sand and turquoise ocean. The garden creates its own micro-climate where tropical birds can be seen while you eat breakfast. I received a wonderful African massage at the in-house spa and was blessed to have a great time during my stay.

Location: Mustapha's Place is in the village of Bwejuu on the island's quiet eastern coast. While chilling out at the beach, swimming, and snorkeling are the most obvious activities, guests can also keep themselves busy exploring the rest of Zanzibar. Day trips include a visit to Stone Town, a Swahili coastal trading town designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a guided tour of the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park to spot rare red colobus monkeys.

Rooms: The nine guest cottages, with telling names like the Treetop Room and Swiss Banda, are made from local materials such as makuti thatch and coral rock and are decorated with African fabrics and murals by local artists. All rooms are well cared for and unique, some have private baths, and others share nearby bathrooms.

Food: The kitchen prepares wonderful, nourishing, and healthy African-inspired food. The chef specializes in Zanzibari dishes and Swahili seafood such as plantains in coconut milk and octopus stew, as well as vegetarian meals using fresh produce and island spices. The bar serves up local beers and cocktails, and a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, toast, and eggs, along with coffee or tea, is included.

Vibe: The atmosphere is laid back, but everything is kept in good order by the very attentive and committed staff members who will do their best to accommodate your every need. Mustapha's staff has a great relationship with the locals which makes for a real cultural experience.

Keep in Mind: The hotel spa is only open during the high season.

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banda inns banda inns banda inns banda inns

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Kampala, Uganda: Banda Inns
Nominated By: Jenny Drezin, Seattle, USA, June '09

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Price Range: 20-50 Euros (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 9 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Banda Inns so Darn Good? Staying at Banda Inns is like staying with your favorite relatives - you feel instantly at home! With its large common living room and lovely terrace overlooking the extensive gardens, the inn is a wonderful base to explore the city. Steve, Asteria, and their entire staff are very welcoming and truly make an effort to get to know their guests.

Location: Banda Inns is located in the residential neighborhood of Muyenga, Tank Hill, and is a ten to fifteen minute cab or scooter ride to downtown Kampala. Kampala's highlights include the World Heritage Kasubi Tombs and the city's many bustling open-air markets. Kampala is also the starting point for excursions to any one of Uganda's ten National Parks, including a gorilla tracking safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Rooms: The inn has nine comfortable rooms, two with a shared bathroom, and all with mosquito nets.

Food: Rose, the inn's lovely cook, serves a simple, but hearty, breakfast of eggs, toast, fresh fruit, and yogurt on the terrace. She will also prepare a Ugandan or Western-style lunch or dinner upon request. If you would prefer to eat out, the Muyenga neighborhood has a lively pub and restaurant scene, with several popular spots within walking distance.

Vibe: Like a home away from home, Band Inns is laid-back and comfortable. Staying at the inn is also a great way to meet local people. Over the weekend, Steve lit a large bon-fire in the garden and invited his friends. Within minutes, we were invited to a wedding and several parties!

Things to Keep in Mind: The inn can help with everything from picking you up at the airport to arranging trips to see the gorillas, as we did!

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green tree lodge green tree lodge green tree lodge green tree lodge

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Livingstone, Zambia: Green Tree Lodge
Nominated By: Zimba Mission Team (Joan, Joan, and Janet), Lusaka, Zambia and Memphis, Tennessee, December '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at whl

Andrew and Victoria purchased the Green Tree Lodge in 2012, and they have since made renovations, lowered room rates, and managed to earn top reviews from travelers.

Price Range: US$40-$60 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 5 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Green Tree Lodge so Darn Good? Hector, the owner and manager of Green Tree Lodge, is an amazing and gracious host. He makes each guest feel at home and gets to know everyone personally. Hector's crew makes a scrumptious breakfast, and the Lodge provides a peaceful setting with clean and modern rooms. The Lodge is within a fifteen minute drive of Victoria Falls, considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Location: The Green Tree Lodge is in a secluded location just off the main roads through Livingstone - removed from the town's hustle and bustle, yet just a fifteen minute walk to town center. The Lodge is an excellent base for excursions to Victoria Falls and the Mosi-oa-Tunya Game Park, or a white water rafting trip on the Zambezi River.

Rooms: The individual guest chalets are simple but modern and provide basic luxuries such as air conditioning, television, and hot showers. Lush, tropical fruit trees supply shade in the garden so guests can relax in comfort by the lovely swimming pool. We were delighted by the guinea fowl, guinea pigs, and bunny rabbits roaming the grounds.

Food: A tasty English-style breakfast, served with fresh fruit and fruit juices, is cooked to order and served on the back veranda overlooking the pool. Guests may also order lunch and dinner at the Lodge's restaurant and bar, which is exclusively for guest use.

Vibe: The Lodge offers friendly and personal home-style service in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.

Keep in Mind: You might want to plan to stay awhile, as it is very peaceful here.

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