Miscellanous

In this page I’d like to post different topics and interesting subjects about my country,Iran, to introduce my blog visitors to my lovely homeland.

ANCIENT IRAN

[Excerpted from Iran: A Country Study. Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1987]

Photo retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/312085449153321733/

Pre-Achaemenid Iran

Iran’s history as a nation of people speaking an Indo-European language did not begin until the middle of the second millennium B.C. Before then, Iran was occupied by peoples with a variety of cultures. There are numerous artifacts attesting to settled agriculture, permanent sun-dried- brick dwellings, and pottery-making from the sixth millennium B.C. The most advanced area technologically was ancient Susiana, present-day Khuzestan Province. By the fourth millennium, the inhabitants of Susiana, the Elamites, were using semipictographic writing, probably learned from the highly advanced civilization of Sumer in Mesopotamia (ancient name for much of the area now known as Iraq), to the west.

Sumerian influence in art, literature, and religion also became particularly strong when the Elamites were occupied by, or at least came under the domination of, two Mesopotamian cultures, those of Akkad and Ur, during the middle of the third millennium. By 2000 B.C. the Elamites had become sufficiently unified to destroy the city of Ur. Elamite civilization developed rapidly from that point, and, by the fourteenth century B.C., its art was at its most impressive.

Immigration of the Medes and the Persians

Small groups of nomadic, horse-riding peoples speaking Indo-European languages began moving into the Iranian cultural area from Central Asia near the end of the second millennium B.C. Population pressures, overgrazing in their home area, and hostile neighbors may have prompted these migrations. Some of the groups settled in eastern Iran, but others, those who were to leave significant historical records, pushed farther west toward the Zagros Mountains.

Three major groups are identifiable–the Scythians, the Medes (the Amadai or Mada), and the Persians (also known as the Parsua or Parsa). The Scythians established themselves in the northern Zagros Mountains and clung to a seminomadic existence in which raiding was the chief form of economic enterprise. The Medes settled over a huge area, reaching as far as modern Tabriz in the north and Esfahan in the south. They had their capital at Ecbatana (present-day Hamadan) and annually paid tribute to the Assyrians. The Persians were established in three areas: to the south of Lake Urmia (the tradional name, also cited as Lake Orumiyeh, to which it has reverted after being called Lake Rezaiyeh under the Pahlavis), on the northern border of the kingdom of the Elamites; and in the environs of modern Shiraz, which would be their eventual settling place and to which they would give the name Parsa (what is roughly present-day Fars Province).

During the seventh century B.C., the Persians were led by Hakamanish (Achaemenes, in Greek), ancestor of the Achaemenid dynasty. A descendant, Cyrus II (also known as Cyrus the Great or Cyrus the Elder), led the combined forces of the Medes and the Persians to establish the most extensive empire known in the ancient world.

The Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 B.C.

By 546 B.C., Cyrus had defeated Croesus, the Lydian king of fabled wealth, and had secured control of the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, Armenia, and the Greek colonies along the Levant. Moving east, he took Parthia (land of the Arsacids, not to be confused with Parsa, which was to the southwest), Chorasmis, and Bactria. He besieged and captured Babylon in 539 and released the Jews who had been held captive there, thus earning his immortalization in the Book of Isaiah. When he died in 529, Cyrus’s kingdom extended as far east as the Hindu Kush in present-day Afghanistan.

His successors were less successful. Cyrus’s unstable son, Cambyses II, conquered Egypt but later committed suicide during a revolt led by a priest, Gaumata, who usurped the throne until overthrown in 522 by a member of a lateral branch of the Achaemenid family, Darius I (also known as Darayarahush or Darius the Great). Darius attacked the Greek mainland, which had supported rebellious Greek colonies under his aegis, but as a result of his defeat at the Battle of Marathon in 490 was forced to retract the limits of the empire to Asia Minor.

The Achaemenids thereafter consolidated areas firmly under their control. It was Cyrus and Darius who, by sound and farsighted administrative planning, brilliant military maneuvering, and a humanistic worldview, established the greatness of the Achaemenids and in less than thirty years raised them from an obscure tribe to a world power.

The quality of the Achaemenids as rulers began to disintegrate, however, after the death of Darius in 486. His son and successor, Xerxes, was chiefly occupied with suppressing revolts in Egypt and Babylonia. He also attempted to conquer the Greek Peloponnesus, but encouraged by a victory at Thermopylae, he overextended his forces and suffered overwhelming defeats at Salamis and Plataea. By the time his successor, Artaxerxes I, died in 424, the imperial court was beset by factionalism among the lateral family branches, a condition that persisted until the death in 330 of the last of the Achaemenids, Darius III, at the hands of his own subjects.

The Achaemenids were enlightened despots who allowed a certain amount of regional autonomy in the form of the satrapy system. A satrapy was an administrative unit, usually organized on a geographical basis. A satrap (governor) administered the region, a general supervised military recruitment and ensured order, and a state secretary kept official records. The general and the state secretary reported directly to the central government. The twenty satrapies were linked by a 2,500-kilometer highway, the most impressive stretch being the royal road from Susa to Sardis, built by command of Darius. Relays of mounted couriers could reach the most remote areas in fifteen days. Despite the relative local independence afforded by the satrapy system however, royal inspectors, the “eyes and ears of the king,” toured the empire and reported on local conditions, and the king maintained a personal bodyguard of 10,000 men, called the Immortals.

The language in greatest use in the empire was Aramaic. Old Persian was the “official language” of the empire but was used only for inscriptions and royal proclamations.

Darius revolutionized the economy by placing it on a silver and gold coinage system. Trade was extensive, and under the Achaemenids there was an efficient infrastructure that facilitated the exchange of commodities among the far reaches of the empire. As a result of this commercial activity, Persian words for typical items of trade became prevalent throughout the Middle East and eventually entered the English language; examples are, bazaar, shawl, sash, turquoise, tiara, orange, lemon, melon, peach, spinach, and asparagus. Trade was one of the empire’s main sources of revenue, along with agriculture and tribute. Other accomplishments of Darius’s reign included codification of the data, a universal legal system upon which much of later Iranian law would be based, and construction of a new capital at Persepolis, where vassal states would offer their yearly tribute at the festival celebrating the spring equinox. In its art and architecture, Persepolis reflected Darius’s perception of himself as the leader of conglomerates of people to whom he had given a new and single identity. The Achaemenid art and architecture found there is at once distinctive and also highly eclectic. The Achaemenids took the art forms and the cultural and religious traditions of many of the ancient Middle Eastern peoples and combined them into a single form. This Achaemenid artistic style is evident in the iconography of Persepolis, which celebrates the king and the office of the monarch.

The Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 B.C.

By 546 B.C., Cyrus had defeated Croesus, the Lydian king of fabled wealth, and had secured control of the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, Armenia, and the Greek colonies along the Levant. Moving east, he took Parthia (land of the Arsacids, not to be confused with Parsa, which was to the southwest), Chorasmis, and Bactria. He besieged and captured Babylon in 539 and released the Jews who had been held captive there, thus earning his immortalization in the Book of Isaiah. When he died in 529, Cyrus’s kingdom extended as far east as the Hindu Kush in present-day Afghanistan.

His successors were less successful. Cyrus’s unstable son, Cambyses II, conquered Egypt but later committed suicide during a revolt led by a priest, Gaumata, who usurped the throne until overthrown in 522 by a member of a lateral branch of the Achaemenid family, Darius I (also known as Darayarahush or Darius the Great). Darius attacked the Greek mainland, which had supported rebellious Greek colonies under his aegis, but as a result of his defeat at the Battle of Marathon in 490 was forced to retract the limits of the empire to Asia Minor.

The Achaemenids thereafter consolidated areas firmly under their control. It was Cyrus and Darius who, by sound and farsighted administrative planning, brilliant military maneuvering, and a humanistic worldview, established the greatness of the Achaemenids and in less than thirty years raised them from an obscure tribe to a world power.

The quality of the Achaemenids as rulers began to disintegrate, however, after the death of Darius in 486. His son and successor, Xerxes, was chiefly occupied with suppressing revolts in Egypt and Babylonia. He also attempted to conquer the Greek Peloponnesus, but encouraged by a victory at Thermopylae, he overextended his forces and suffered overwhelming defeats at Salamis and Plataea. By the time his successor, Artaxerxes I, died in 424, the imperial court was beset by factionalism among the lateral family branches, a condition that persisted until the death in 330 of the last of the Achaemenids, Darius III, at the hands of his own subjects.

The Achaemenids were enlightened despots who allowed a certain amount of regional autonomy in the form of the satrapy system. A satrapy was an administrative unit, usually organized on a geographical basis. A satrap (governor) administered the region, a general supervised military recruitment and ensured order, and a state secretary kept official records. The general and the state secretary reported directly to the central government. The twenty satrapies were linked by a 2,500-kilometer highway, the most impressive stretch being the royal road from Susa to Sardis, built by command of Darius. Relays of mounted couriers could reach the most remote areas in fifteen days. Despite the relative local independence afforded by the satrapy system however, royal inspectors, the “eyes and ears of the king,” toured the empire and reported on local conditions, and the king maintained a personal bodyguard of 10,000 men, called the Immortals.

The language in greatest use in the empire was Aramaic. Old Persian was the “official language” of the empire but was used only for inscriptions and royal proclamations.

Darius revolutionized the economy by placing it on a silver and gold coinage system. Trade was extensive, and under the Achaemenids there was an efficient infrastructure that facilitated the exchange of commodities among the far reaches of the empire. As a result of this commercial activity, Persian words for typical items of trade became prevalent throughout the Middle East and eventually entered the English language; examples are, bazaar, shawl, sash, turquoise, tiara, orange, lemon, melon, peach, spinach, and asparagus. Trade was one of the empire’s main sources of revenue, along with agriculture and tribute. Other accomplishments of Darius’s reign included codification of the data, a universal legal system upon which much of later Iranian law would be based, and construction of a new capital at Persepolis, where vassal states would offer their yearly tribute at the festival celebrating the spring equinox. In its art and architecture, Persepolis reflected Darius’s perception of himself as the leader of conglomerates of people to whom he had given a new and single identity. The Achaemenid art and architecture found there is at once distinctive and also highly eclectic. The Achaemenids took the art forms and the cultural and religious traditions of many of the ancient Middle Eastern peoples and combined them into a single form. This Achaemenid artistic style is evident in the iconography of Persepolis, which celebrates the king and the office of the monarch.

Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, and the Parthians

Envisioning a new world empire based on a fusion of Greek and Iranian culture and ideals, Alexander the Great of Macedon accelerated the disintegration of the Achaemenid Empire. He was first accepted as leader by the fractious Greeks in 336 B.C. and by 334 had advanced to Asia Minor, an Iranian satrapy. In quick succession he took Egypt, Babylonia, and then, over the course of two years, the heart of the Achaemenid Empire–Susa, Ecbatana, and Persepolis–the last of which he burned. Alexander married Roxana (Roshanak), the daughter of the most powerful of the Bactrian chiefs (Oxyartes, who revolted in present-day Tadzhikistan), and in 324 commanded his officers and 10,000 of his soldiers to marry Iranian women. The mass wedding, held at Susa, was a model of Alexander’s desire to consummate the union of the Greek and Iranian peoples. These plans ended in 323 B.C., however, when Alexander was struck with fever and died in Babylon, leaving no heir. His empire was divided among four of his generals. Seleucus, one of these generals, who became ruler of Babylon in 312, gradually reconquered most of Iran. Under Seleucus’s son, Antiochus I, many Greeks entered Iran, and Hellenistic motifs in art, architecture, and urban planning became prevalent.

Although the Seleucids faced challenges from the Ptolemies of Egypt and from the growing power of Rome, the main threat came from the province of Fars (Partha to the Greeks). Arsaces (of the seminomadic Parni tribe), whose name was used by all subsequent Parthian kings, revolted against the Seleucid governor in 247 B.C. and established a dynasty, the Arsacids, or Parthians. During the second century, the Parthians were able to extend their rule to Bactria, Babylonia, Susiana, and Media, and, under Mithradates II (123-87 B.C.), Parthian conquests stretched from India to Armenia. After the victories of Mithradates II, the Parthians began to claim descent from both the Greeks and the Achaemenids. They spoke a language similar to that of the Achaemenids, used the Pahlavi script, and established an administrative system based on Achaemenid precedents.

http://theiranproject.com/blog/2013/11/02/huge-temple-excavated-in-iranian-southern-province/

Meanwhile, Ardeshir, son of the priest Papak, who claimed descent from the legendary hero Sasan, had become the Parthian governor in the Achaemenid home province of Persis (Fars). In A.D. 224 he overthrew the last Parthian king and established the Sassanid dynasty, which was to last 400 years.

http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Culture/love_of_truth.htm

KABOB KOOBIDEH | GRILLED MINCED MEAT KABOBS

Kabob Koobideh is made with ground lamb or beef or a combination of the two.  This is one of the most popular kabobs you can find on the streets of Iran. This Kabob is usually grilled over hot coals and is served in fancy restaurants and clubs, as well as in the little shacks scattered in any given recreation park. You can also find this kabob by following your nose in search of the source of the most heavenly aroma that fills the street or the indoor bazaar.
Kabob Koobideh
The aroma will lead you to a vendor, or as we call “Kabobi” (the Kabob Guy) with very modest equipment that sometimes can be as simple as a small charcoal grill and a bowl of ground lamb mixed with chopped onions and spices.

He will also have plenty of lavash or Sangak (thin Persian breads) on the side to make a quick wrap with the kabob right off the grill and maybe a grilled tomato with a slice of raw onion. Believe it or not the Kabob Koobideh grilled in these tiny little grills on the street corner smells more mouthwatering than any kabob served in fancy restaurants. No matter how sophisticated a restaurant menu, good Kabob Koobideh is as popular as any kabob offered on the menu and it is usually served with Persian Steamed Rice.  In some restaurants this kabob is served side by side with a skewer of Kabob Barg (filet mignon kabob) and the dish is called Kabob Soltani, meaning fit for a soltan!

In our house Kabob Koobideh is served with Persian Steamed Rice and Sangak. A piece of Sangak is used to pull the kabob off the skewer and then divided among guests to enjoy. Hot kabob juices make the Sangak quite a desirable delicacy!
Kabob KoobidehMy Kabobi guy is my husband who has perfected his kabobs and this is his delicious recipe and technique. The technique to making kabobs is just as important as the recipe, if not more. No matter how great a recipe if the technique is not done correctly the outcome is going to be disappointing to say the least! I will be explaining his technique step by step, but I also want to mention one simple but important device that he uses when he grills kabobs.  He places two hollow square metal pipes, purchased from hardware store, across the top and bottom of the grates so the meat grills without  direct contact with the hot surface.

in the strainerdrain the juice

Finely chop the onion in the food processor. Transfer to a sieve and press on it with a spoon to drain all the liquid. Discard the liquid and mix the onion pulp with the ground meats

the kabob ing256

For best results make this kabob with fresh ground beef and lamb, not previously frozen, in room temperature. Mix the meat and onion pulp with the rest of the ingredients and knead with your fingers

the mixwrap the meat on the skewer

After kneading the mixture for a few minutes it will resemble a paste that will stick together and will not fall apart when you pick it up in your hand. Make a ball with the mixture and place a 1-inch wide metal skewer on it, then start spreading the meat on the middle section of the skewer by opening and closing your fingers to stick the mixture securely to the skewer. Leave a few inches from the tip and handle section of the skewer clear for grilling. The thickness of the meat mixture should be about 1/2 inch all around the skewer.

pressing the kabobskweres

Press the meat between your thumb and index finger to make several indentations about 1 inch apart. Arrange the prepared Kabobs on a shallow tray with raised sides or a baking dish, so the meat does not touch the surface of the pan.

veggieson the grill

Narrow skewers work better than wide ones for the vegetables. The vegetables take longer to get ready, so if there is enough room on the grill start with the vegetables and halfway through grilling add the kabob skewers. If the space is limited, grill the vegetables first and keep them warm until Kabobs are done. The kabobs are going to take only minutes to grill. Arrange the kabobs on the grill (over the two previously mentioned metal pipes) and then right away start turning them in the order that they were placed; meaning, start turning the first skewer that was placed on the hot grill and continue with the rest of the skewers.  The reason for this is that if one side of the kabob cooks through when you try to turn it, the uncooked part is going to fall off.  Once the kabobs are grilled on both sides, you can turn them again until they are grilled to your taste.
Kabob Koobideh
Traditionally Kabob Koobideh is served with hot Persian Steamed Rice tossed with cubes of butter (room temperature) and sprinkled with Sumac. The drink of choice is usually Doogh(Persian Yogurt Drink) sprinkled with dried Persian Kakooti (an herb with a taste similar to Greek oregano or thyme that grows wild in the foothills of some areas of Iran). Persians love their Chelokabob (Rice and Kabob) with slices of raw onions (red or white) and fresh herbs (Sabzi Khordan). The golden beauties on the top right corner are pieces of  TahDig which is the beloved crispy Lavash bread toasted in the bottom of the pot of Persian Rice.

Retrieved from:http://persianmama.com/kabob-koobideh-grilled-minced-meat-kabobs/

Yields 10 kabobs. Serves about 4, (2+ kabobs per person)
You will need:
charcoal grill prepared with hot coals or a gas grill preheated to high
Ten 1-inch wide stainless steel skewers (available in most Persian or Middle Eastern markets)
Narrow skewers or metal grilling basket for grilling the vegetables
Author: Homa
Recipe type: Kabob/Chelokabob (Rice & Kabob)
Cuisine: Persian
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef (80-85% lean)
  • 1 pound ground lamb (80-85% lean)
  • 1 ½ medium yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sumac (An spice sold at the Middle Eastern markets)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ cup butter, melted (for brushing over the kabobs after grilling)
  • FOR THE GRILLED VEGETABLES
  • 4 ripe but firm Roma tomatoes
  • 1 large green bell pepper, stem removed, deseeded and quartered
  • Olive oil to brush the vegetables with before grilling
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. You will need ten 1-inch metal skewers.
  2. For best results the meat should be fresh (not previously frozen) and at room temperature.
  3. Finely chop the onion pieces in a food processor until very juicy. Place a fine metal mesh over a bowl and strain the processed onion by pressing it with a spatula. Discard the juice.
  4. Add the remaining onion pulp to a medium bowl.
  5. Add the ground beef and lamb, minced garlic, salt, spices and egg to the bowl. Knead all of the ingredients for several minutes until the mixture is paste like and sticks together without falling apart.
  6. Fill up a small bowl with tap water, this is for wetting your fingers so the meat does not stick to them when you are making the kabobs.
  7. Divide the meat into 10 equal balls.
  8. Get one of the balls of meat in the palm of your hand, place the skewer on top of it and squeeze the meat around the skewer. Once you make sure that meat is not going to fall off, start squeezing it from top to bottom and cover the middle section of the skewer. Leave the top and bottom of the skewer clear. Wet your fingers with the tap water and keep squeezing and spreading the meat evenly around the skewer. The meat should be about ½ inch thick all around the skewer.
  9. Set the skewer gently on a shallow baking sheet with sides, so the meat does not touch the floor of the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of the kabobs. At this point the uncooked kabobs can sit over the counter while you get the grill ready.
  10. To Grill Kabob Koobideh: You will need two square metal pipes that you will place parallel to each other on top and bottom of the cooking grate of your grill lengthwise. The top pipe is for placing the tip of the skewers and the bottom one is for the handles. This is so the skewers are raised and the meat does not touch the hot grate, otherwise it will stick and fall right off.
  11. The coals are ready when they are gray and covered with ash.
  12. If you’re grilling vegetables it is always better to skewer them separate from the kabobs. I use thinner skewers for the vegetables because if the skewers are too wide the turgid vegetables such as green peppers will tear and fall apart.
  13. The vegetables take longer to grill than the meat, so if the space is limited, grill the vegetables first and keep them warm under an aluminum foil. If there is enough grilling surface start grilling the veggies first and halfway through grilling, start the kabobs.
  14. Place as many kabob skewers as you can fit on the grill, leave some space between them. As soon as you are done arranging all the skewers, start turning the first skewer and keep turning the rest in the order that you have placed them on the grill. The reason for this quick turning is to cook both sides of the kabobs for a short time so the meat cooks and firms up all around and does not fall off the skewer. Do not overcook the kabobs because they are thin and tend to dry out. Turn the kabobs again until you get the doneness you desire. The kabobs should have a nice grilled color on the outside and no longer pink inside, but still very juicy.
  15. When the kabobs are ready, remove them from the heat and into a container lined with a large aluminum foil. Keep the kabobs covered with the foil until ready to serve.
  16. To serve, use a piece of flat bread (Sangak, soft lavash, or pita bread) larger than the palm of your hand. Start at the end with handle, grab the kabob and slide it off the skewer onto the serving platter. This is the easiest and safest way to pull the kabobs off the skewer. The flavorful kabob juices make the bread so delicious that everyone will want a piece.
  17. Brush melted butter over the kabobs.
  18. Enjoy Kabob Koobideh with Persian rice that has been tossed with cubed softened butter and a sprinkle of sumac. Serve it with a side of grilled vegetables, a slice of raw red or white onion and Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs). The drink of choice is usually Doogh (Persian yogurt drink)
  19. This kabob is equally delicious served with grilled vegetables over Sangak or Lavash, which are both Persian flat breads.
NOTES
The inside temperature of grilled ground beef should be 160 F.
If your KitchenAid has a meat grinder attachment try making your own ground beef from cross rib roast, chuck roast or any variety of marbleized meat at home.
Doogh (Persian Yogurt Drink) – Mix equal parts water or club soda with yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle lightly with dried Persian Kakooti (Dried Greek oregano or dried thyme make a good substitute). Serve in glasses over ice cubes.

Retieved from: http://persianmama.com/kabob-koobideh-grilled-minced-meat-kabobs/

 Joojeh Kabab (Chicken Kabob)

Its summer and time to get out doors and begin grilling some good stuff! How about some Joojeh Kabab to satisfy your appetite?!

Retrieved from: http://www.halalgirlabouttown.com/home/wp-content/uploads/jooejh-kabab-take-2.jpg

Note:you will need skewers that are thinner than those used for Kabab Koobideh.

Below you will see two different types of marinated Joojeh Kabab. One is the normal Joojeh Kabab (left) and the other is a spicy version (right):

 

http://persiankitchen.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/marinating6-small.jpg?w=300

Ingredients:
Chicken breast(s) — Every skewer holds about 1 chicken breast, and usually you will need 1 to 2 skewers per person
olive oil — Approximately half a cup (for 2-3 chicken breasts)
salt — desired amount
pepper — desired amount
turmeric — half a teaspoon or slightly more than that
chopped onion(s) – 1 large for 2-3 chicken breasts
saffron (optional) – just a tad
red pepper or chili pepper (optional) — if you want to make them spicyregular-jooje-kabob-halfcooked-300x168

Directions:
Cut up the chicken breast into pieces. The size of the pieces depends on the size of your skewer.

Add the chicken pieces to a container or bowl that has a lid.

Marinade the chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, a tad bit turmeric, chopped onions, and saffron (finely ground). Make sure to mix the chicken pieces into the marinade so that all the pieces are coated. Note: If you want to make the chicken spicy add the red pepper as part of the marinade. Place the lid on the container (bowl) and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

When you are ready to make the Joojeh Kabab prepare your grill. If you are using charcoal you will need to fix the grill and wait until the charcoal is heated prior to placing the skewers onto the grill.

joojeh-kabob-300x168spicy-jooje-kabob-300x168

Place chicken pieces onto the skewers and cook them on the grill. Rotate the skewers to make sure both sides are cooked evenly. Depending on how juicy you want the Joojeh to be you will need to adjust the grilling time (5 to 10 minutes). It does not take long for the Joojeh Kabab to be cooked and ready, but you want to avoid having too much of a flaming grill because your Joojeh will burn on the outside and not cook on the inside. With practice your timing will become better.

Serve with rice, sabzi khoordan (herbs such as mint, tarragon, etc.), or bread.

 

Retieved from:http://persianrecipes.com/joojeh-kabab-chicken-kabob/

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