Criss-crossing through Egypt
The trip to Edfu
[Som vanligt blev naturligtvis den här reseuppdateringen alldeles för lång. Eftersom jag inte heller fick särskilt många önskningar om en svensk översättning så skippar jag även denna gång svensk översättning.]
Hi everybody - it's me again!
It's now been more than a month since my last travel update and as we've finally left Egypt I thought it'd be a good idea to catch up on my travel updates before we return to Turkey for another couple of weeks while trying to get our Iranian visa. Current location is Pano Platres, a hill resort in the Troodos mountain range in Cyprus, where we've decided to stay a week while recharging our batteries after a tough last week in Egypt. More on that later though, let's pick up where my last update ended.
The trip to Edfu
As I dispatched my last update we were just on our way to visit the Edfu temple. Dedicated to Horus, located halfway between Luxor and Assuan, and the most complete temple in Egypt it's an absolute must for anyone staying for a while in Luxor. The trip to Edfu was as uneventful as a bus trip in Egypt can be; 70 people in a bus with 50 seats, hot, bumpy and loud as the TV was showing some, very popular, judging by the locals' response, comedy show at full volume. On the whole, not too bad for an hour and a half.
The temple itself was well worth the trip. Just the fact that the roof is more or less intact makes for a completely different ambience compared to other temples where one mostly walks around free standing walls and columns. In Edfu the religion of the ancient Egyptians almost felt as alive and tangible as when visiting a hindu temple in India. Since the Edfu temple is also one of the youngest temples in Egypt (just shortly before Christ - extremely modern by Egyptian standards) the style of the hieroglyphs were also markedly different with a more rounded appearance and freer style. Unfortunately the Edfu temple had been severely vandalized by people living in the ruins throughout the centuries so many of the major figures were now no more than hacked out outlines. Interesting to see was also the blackened ceiling - charred by the camp fires of the temples inhabitants when the temple was almost completely covered in sand.
On our way back to Luxor we decided to walk across to the bus station - a three km walk or so - which confused the hell out of the tourist police officer 'guarding' the bridge across the Nile. He probably let us pass out of sheer astonishment and we finally felt like we'd escaped from the confinement of the tourist police. This sense of freedom was further escalated as we got on a truly local (3rd class) train back to Luxor. Sure it was way slower than the bus (2½ hours) but nothing beats the comfort of travelling by train and we got a great view of the countryside slowly rolling by outside.
Welcome to Nubia
Having spent seven nights in Luxor we got some 'help' deciding to move on from an egyptian school class (boys only) checking into our hotel... Having slept a maximum of 2-3 hours as the party noise died down during the small hours we dragged ourselves down to the bus station to catch the 10.30 bus to Assuan which was our intended 'last stop' before turning back north again. As the bus got closer to Assuan the colours started getting more 'african' (as someone who has never been there might imagine them). Darker skin, richly coloured clothes and houses in brilliant warm colours. The churches of the Coptic christians also featured more prominently than before hinting at a stronger Coptic presence.
Arriving in Assuan we were - despite our protests - dropped off at the corniche under the pretext that this was the 'bus station' of Assuan... For what reason we will probably never know since we later passed the actual bus station on our way to the 'cheap hotel' area. We chose to interpret it as a conspiracy to get us into one of the numerous horse carriages or taxis lining up just opposite the corniche - a trick we, experienced travellers, of course didn't fall for.
Finding a cheap hotel turned out to be harder than in Luxor since there simply weren't that many to choose from - we opted to spend slightly more than usual and got a really good room at the 'Keylany' hotel for our planned three night stay in the city. As is our custom, we at once took to the streets to see what the city had to offer and to learn our way around. The 'corniche experience' was very much the same as in Luxor with touts selling felucca rides (local style sailing boats) and taxi drivers trying to get our custom no matter what our preference in the matter was. Apart from that the views over the Nile are better in Assuan as the Elephantine island situated in the middle of the river contrasts nicely with the sand slopes on the west bank of the river. At night, the west bank is lit up by floodlights as this is where most of the tombs of the nobles are located as well as the gigantic mausoleum of Agha Khan (someone very rich and famous I hear but I couldn't be bothered to find out more).
Searching our way south along the corniche we soon found ourselves gaping at a the sight of a gigantic coptic cathedral which really gave us the impression of being a statement of power opposing the muslim dominance. Unfortunately we couldn't get into this cathedral as it was locked but it sure looked like the Coptic church is quite influental in the southern parts of Egypt. Further along the river, now well beyond the end of the corniche, we first passed the Old Cataract Hotel which was where the British noblemen spent their winters in past days. It's still running but most of todays guests [probably] stay in the New Cataract - a square concrete skyscraper south of the old Victorian main building.
Just south of this skyscraper is where the main part of Assuan ends and a smaller village type of settlement takes over. We continued, undeterred by someone shouting at us to turn back, south through this village and soon became aware that most of the people here were of the darker complexion of the Nubian minority. The atmosphere here were a lot friendlier and some of the women sitting in front of their houses motioned us to come and sit down for a 'Nubian tea'. Wary about any strings that might be attached to such an offer we gently declined and returned to the main part of town in search of a pastry shop that wouldn't rip us off. This turned out to be harder than we first thought and it wasn't until we'd walked around for well over an hour - having some kids throwing stones at us (from a safe distance, of course) - that we finally found someone offering us the coveted cream-tarts at a decent rate... just outside our hotel!
Founder of the next Egyptian soccer team?
As the no. 1 'must see' in Assuan (Abu Simbel) is now only accessible by aeroplane at a whopping US $80 [from the airline of a nephew of the President, rumours say] we opted for a more low key tour of the area. The ferry across the river to the west bank of the river cost us E£1 each as opposed to £0.25 for the locals crossing. The ticket salesman couldn't be made to understand that a ticket is a ticket no matter who buys it claiming "but you're only here once" to be a good argument for a dual pricing scheme...
The tombs of the west bank turned out to be quite different from the ones we'd seen in Luxor. Hardly any decorations or carvings but more like catacombs cut into the hard granite rock. As soon as we'd payed our entrance fee we set course on a tomb a bit away from the main area but couldn't get further than ten steps before the ticket master started yelling at us to go 'in the right direction' like all the other tourists. Our futile attempts to explain that we actually were interested in seeing this smaller tomb didn't have any impact what-so-ever so we resigned to following our self-appointed guide up the main stairs.
Our 'guide' swiftly led us to a number of tombs, dutifully pointing out a feature or two and making us sit in all the right spots to see what the doors of the tombs were supposed to be facing. During the regular smalltalk (to justify the inevitable request for baksheesh - a tip - we knew would come sooner rather than later) our guide of course asked whether we were married or not and how many 'bebbes' we have. Upon hearing we don't have a family and don't really plan starting one either, thank you, he confided that he himself had no less than two wives and eleven kids in total! To help us unfortunate souls off to a flying start he made us both sit down on a small altar of fertility in one of the tombs while, looking positively possessed, calling on the gods to bless us with many kids. After this small charade Bettina had to walk five times around the altar to conclude the blessing... There was no doubt in our minds what-so-ever that what he was praying for [while we were crossing our fingers to be on the safe side] was a large tip. At the end we disappointed him sorely by giving him a small £1 (approx US $0.25) for his 'services' upon which he left us alone, muttering to himself.
A monastic life might not be so bad after all...
It's interesting to see how many names pop up again and again while criss-crossing the globe. This time it was the monastery of St. Simeon, located approximately 2 km inland SW of the tombs on the west bank. Last time I heard of St. Simeon was as we visited the remains of the St. Simeon basilika outside of Aleppo, Syria. I'm not knowledgeable enough to know whether this was the same St. Simeon or not (the one outside Aleppo was St. Simeon of the Pillar) but some names do crop up in the oddest of places.
After an exhausting walk across the sand dunes draping the west bank we finally laid eyes on the monastery sitting isolated in the middle of nowhere. No sooner had we started walking across the desert plain than a camel tout comes galopping at us shouting 'Hello hello hellooooo' from fifty metres away... Silently ignoring him did the trick but we were a bit puzzled as to what he was doing selling camel rides out in the middle of nowhere. The mystery was later solved as a whole group of tourists arrived on camel back from the ferry landing. We thanked our lucky star for having had the silent, deserted monastery to ourselves for close to an hour. Sitting in a small courtyard just off the main dormitory section listening to nothing but the wind was a well needed rest from the busy city life of the last two weeks.
On the way back to the city we passed by the Agha Khan mausoleum which stands just less than a kilometer away from the monastery. [Un]fortunately it was closed the day we were there but we could well imagine how it would look on a 'business' day as the small boat landing just below mausoleum was half filled up with camel- & felucca touts even this day!
The perfect business model
The two other major 'musts' during a stay in Assuan are the Assuan High Dam and the temples of the Philae Island, situated in the lake created by the old dam of Assuan (built by the British - like so many other things in Egypt). Our first plan was to rent bicycles to get some well needed exercise but since the price for three bicycles (our friend Peter who we first met in El-Qasr joined us for the day) added up to as much as sharing a taxi...
Driving across the old British dam we got some good views of Assuan but photos are - for unknown reasons - not allowed. Seems like they even enforce the ban to a certain extent as our taxi driver flinches a bit as Bettina goes for her camera. The high dam, a 'friendship' gift from the former Soviet Union, doesn't look so 'high' - more like a massive arch of concrete effectively damming up the Nile thus creating the huge 'Lake Nasser'. Not really worth the £5/pp entrance ticket. To commemorate the building of the dam and the Egyptian/Soviet friendship there's a huge concrete tower monument at the western base of the dam. Our taxi driver stops there to let us take a look at this monument. I'm not a friend of the archetypical communist concrete art style but this monument is quite stylish if one disregards its monstrous size. A nice bonus - free of charge (to us as well as the Egyptian government...).
We finally say goodbye to our taxi driver at the boat landing for the Philae Island. He seems a bit puzzled that we don't want him to wait but shrugs and takes off, leaving us standing in the middle of a parking lot full of taxis & tourist coaches, souvenir shops lining the sidewalks. To get to the Philae Island we first have to charter a boat - there's no official ferry or anything. The preferred method seems to be to charter a whole boat for a return trip including a one hour wait at the island. Since there's no shortage of other tourists wanting to go we soon have a small ad hoc group to share the charter.
The main temple on the Philae Island, the Temple of Isis, reminded us a lot of the Edfu temple with its ceiling intact and quite a few vandalized carvings. This was the first temple where I really noticed the presence of the cross of the crusader knights boldly carved out beside all the doors and on quite a few pillars inside as well. I had no idea the crusaders were as far south as Assuan - even the romans only barely got as far as Assuan! The recarving of the temples to fit the current religion seems to be something that perseveres through history and we learned that a lot of the defacation of the temples were actually carried out by the rulers of Egypt as the deities fell in and out of grace over the years.
The beautiful setting of the temple - on a small island in the small lake between the two dams - was not the original location however. Being half under water for decades after the construction of the old cataract a massive rescue project was undertaken and funded by UNESCO (which also saved Abu Simbel) as the construction of the Assuan High Dam threatened to completely flood the temple. The hill - for it was originally a hill in the desert - upon which the temple stood was first walled in and drained from water. The whole temple was then excavated, dismantled and later assembled again on top of the nearby hill that today is the Philae Island! Reading about it might not sound so fantastic but standing there looking at these massive stone constructions and realizing they've been moved from another place... doesn't seem possible!
Such massive undertakings sure cost a lot of money - some US $6 million was the price for saving the Isis Temple - and it seems (to us) that UNESCO is paying to save the temples of Egypt so that the Egyptians can collect the entrance fees without putting any money back into maintaining the temples. The Philae looked like it'd been neglected ever since the UNESCO was there and we were musing over how cunningly the Egyptians dupe others into paying for their restoration/construction leaving them to reap the benefits. Amazing!
More clashes with the tourist police
As we returned to the main land with our chartered boat after a mere 75 minutes on the island we were looking forward to a quiet walk along the east river bank to Assuan. Shouldn't be more than a couple of kilometers to the corniche through some smaller villages at the outskirts of Assuan. Our first try to get on the path we saw leading along the river was blocked by a guy telling us we were 'not allowed' to walk there by the tourist police. We tried but were immediately made to return to the parking area where all the buses & taxis were parked. Upon being refused this opportunity at seeing something outside the main tourist area we resigned and started walking along the main road we'd arrived on by taxi.
After less than fifty metres two guys wearing the trademark pullover, walkie-talkie and gun of the tourist police 'detectives' caught up with us and asked us where we were going. Not being pleased hearing that we were walking to town they insisted that we return to the parking lot to take a taxi to town. Our protests that the walk would be a mere 2 km walk along a heavily trafficed road into town didn't help one bit and one of the guys looked so stressed when we - by now seriously pissed off - protested loudly that I'm sure he'd have used force to keep us from walking.
Alas, we returned to the parking lot where we sat down on a bench firmly decided not to go anywhere at all to see how the tourist police would deal with *that* come 'closing time'. If they wanted to force us to get a ride into town - let them arrange and pay for it! Apparently the officers in question weren't completely happy with this situation either and as far as we understood they arranged a subsidized taxi to town for us - which we got in to after some more protests. Getting off outside the Coptic cathedral at the end/start of the corniche in Assuan we all felt like we'd had enough of the 'Egyptian experience' and as far as backpacking is concerned, Egypt is a complete miss. Until they understand that individual travellers want to be able to travel *as individuals* I'd discourage anyone from going there - even on booked tours.
A nice goodbye before returning to Cairo
As we had booked the evening train back to Cairo (2nd class - without any interference from the tourist police!) we spent the afternoon and early evening chatting with a shopkeeper we'd gotten to know the night before. Our friend had some very interesting stories to tell about the tourism business in Assuan. First, tourism was now just starting to take off again after a 1½ year standstill following the massacre in Luxor.
Second, bargaining with tourists is not easy. The custom for bargaining is to start off at a price approximately 75-100% higher than the actual cost of the item and then in a friendly manner negotiate this down to a 25-30% margin for the shop keeper. With tourists, not accustomed to bargaining, it can be extremely difficult to find a good 'opening price' since many of them give counter offers far, far below the actual value of the goods. Our friend asked us how it comes that a tourist that gets an opening price of £30 will try to counter the offer with £2 as opposed to the more reasonable £10 (to finally agree on £13-17). We then had to explain that not all shop keepers have the decency to stay within the customary price range but instead offer their goods at extremely inflated prices. The tourists, unaware of the 'real price' of the items they want then assume they're being charged and exaggerated price. Our friend - who didn't seem to be much of a businessman since he was giving us stuff without charging - looked quite resigned upon hearing this and we can only agree that things would be easier if everyone would be honest.
On the whole we spent 2-3 hours in the small shop of our friend, chatting about everything and nothing, drinking kharkadie (Hibiscus tea) and watching the tourists pass by. At one point Bettina even stepped in as a translator when a german boy wanted to buy a small music instrument from our friend. If we ever come back to Assuan, our friend assured us, we will have to stay with him and his wife in their house and he will take us to all the interesting sights of the area - including Abu Simbel by *road* (so there is a road - but it's not open to tourists...). A nice goodbye to Assuan before getting on the (luxuriously comfortable) 2nd class overnight train to Cairo at 20.00 the same night.
Getting some perspectives in Cairo
Returning back to Cairo after more than a months' travelling around the southern parts of the country felt a bit like we weren't progressing one bit on our trip so we were firmly determined to make the stay as short as possible and get on with travelling. However, Cairo was nowhere near as intimidating this time as we found it the first time around. Sure the air was thick with smog, the constant noise deafening and the streets thick with people but somehow we felt quite at ease here now (no tourist police stalking us!!!). Thus we ended up spending another week in Cairo as opposed to the three nights we had initially planned.
Our first mission that week was to apply for a Saudi visa. This turned out to be a nearly impossible task and speaking to the officers at the embassy it was pretty clear that our chances of obtaining even a transit visa without first having a visa for Iran (our destination) were close to zero. It follows that since Iran doesn't have an embassy in Egypt - only a consulate which doesn't issue visas - our only options would be to return back to Turkey again.
Our second goal was to try to meet up with a friend of mine on a two week vacation from Sweden with his wife - good to see some familiar faces again! This we managed and had a nice evening speaking to four exhausted Swedes in their [luxurious] hotel room in Zamalek. The meeting really made us realize how privileged we are travelling the way we do, having the time to see things at our own speed. Our friends had flown into Hurghada on the Red Sea coast on a monday, next morning at 03.00 they got up and got on the tour bus, driving in a convoy ('protected' by the tourist police) to Cairo where they arrived for lunch on a Nile cruiser, saw the museum and then finished off the day by seeing the Citadel. The next morning they were supposed to see the pyramids at Giza (with the inevitable visit to the 'Papyrus institute' - a synonym for 'souvenir shop') followed by Coptic Cairo and a visit to Khan el-Khalil in Islamic Cairo before driving all the way back to Hurghada again! Phew! We'd seen all those places - but in five separate days...
Another interesting aspect of our meeting was to get an image of just how many rip-offs and scams gets pulled off every day in Egypt. Being shorter on cash than time we generally try to avoid or walk away from situations where we're likely to be ripped off - an option not always availible to someone short on time. For example, the tourists on the bus were offered to buy water at £5/1.5 litre bottle - normal cost £1.5 and we usually walk away if someone tries to charge us more than £2. One of our friends had also been charged something like £13 to visit the toilet in the Egyptian museum - a clear overprice but what to do when time is running short and you're unfamiliar with the currency? Just extrapolating these two examples into the bigger picture and one can imagine that money piles up quickly if you happen to be in the business of tourism in Egypt! We felt quite happy that we'd managed to avoid being ripped off in any major way - or maybe they just did it in such a slick way that we didn't even notice ;-)
Since we were now feeling quite comfortable in Cairo we decided to take our time and to see what else we'd missed out on the first time around. The step pyramid of Saqqara was one of those things so we jumped on the metro to Giza, found a service bus out to Pyramids Road and then another service bus to the village of Saqqara (despite being told by a 'helpful' guy on the bus that a camel ride really is the best way to get there). Walking through the village of Saqqara felt almost like walking through a village in the Indian countryside (except that Indians don't throw garbage around to the same extent as the Egyptians). We felt relaxed until a young boy grabbed Bettinas arm and of course wouldn't even come anywhere near us when we told him to try that again. Everywhere one walks in Egypt one has to be on guard against poorly educated and ill mannered people. Tiring, oh so tiring.
This part of the Egyptian experience is not something exclusively for tourists/foreigners but they receive far more hostility than the locals - or maybe they just experience it more tiring than the locals. Speaking to an Egyptian guy and his German fiancée visiting Cairo from Alexandria over the weekend we got confirmation that this happens among locals as well. Our Egyptian friend told us that most of the things he hears people shouting after his fiancée she wouldn't want to understand. Sad, but it really underlined the image we'd made in our head about how people in Egypt in general seem to be quite desillusioned and that many of them hardly act like grown-ups but more like overgrown children.
Indeed our friend told us that the Egypt he grew up in was different; anyone trying something like that twenty years ago when he was a kid would be severly reprimanded by the adults around - today everyone turns the other way not considering it their business. He also told us a lot about how most of the people with higher education have now left the country since it's not possible to make a living or progress very far within the Egyptian society. On the whole his descriptions of the whole situation confirmed many of our observations and assumptions about present day Egypt and we were amazed at how many of these things we'd been able to deduce from reading the local newspapers and observing our surroundings. That's the stuff that really makes travelling interesting!
...and they just keep on spinning...
Another part of local culture that we could partake in was a [free] show with local music and dancing dervishes. The setting was in an old mosque at Khan el-Khalil and after a quite shaky start musically speaking the performance really took off. I didn't much care for the squeky sounding pipes but the rhythm section was superb and just seeing the dervish dancers spinn around and around for up to 25 minutes without stopping is almost a medative experience. A good show but the ticketing system (yes, they had one despite the show being free) could be made smoother... we had to wait outside for two hours before the show to be let in...
Bettina explored the local music scene a bit further than I did by visiting a ballet performance named 'Hamlet' at the Cairo opera. Her feelings on the visit were mixed but she put it down to not being very well versed in the language of ballet. However, reading a review of the performance a week later informed us that two thirds of the show - in the opinion of the reviewer - was so poorly coreographed as to be unwatchable! Glad I didn't join :-)
Cold nights in St. Catherine
Arriving in St. Catherine located in the middle of the Sinai peninsula after dark on a Saturday evening wasn't the best tactical move trying to find a cheap place to stay. Beside it being pitch black it was also freezing cold and windy; back to the desert climate again. So, for once, we resorted to paying a taxi driver to take us to a cheap 'camp' called 'Fox of desert' where a tiny room in a concrete bunker could be had for £10/each. Mattresses on the floor, no heating and shower outside of course. Not even breakfast included so we were definately overcharged! This didn't matter much though as it was very clear to us that we didn't want to stay very long in this cold climate. Besides, there's not too much to see in St. Catherine apart from the monastery, containing the second oldest library in the world, the Mt. Sinai & the Mt. St. Catherine.
Since our first day in St. Catherine was a Sunday we couldn't visit the monastery - it's closed to visitors on Sundays. Instead we trekked up to the top of Mt. Sinai just behind the monastery. During the whole two hour walk up we hardly saw a single soul since most tourists go by the more level and wider camel track up. We opted for the steeper stairs leading up through a ravine from behind the monastery for some good aerial views of the monastery and the herds of camel touts behind it.
On the top of the mountain we sat down against the southern wall of the little chapel there admiring the view over the Mt. St. Catherine for an hour while chatting with three Slovenians sharing their Slivovitz with us. For a moment we even thought about staying up there to watch the sunset - as most tourists do - but as sunset drew closer the temperature dropped and seeing the caravans of tourists coming up the camel path made us get down before it was too late and the calmness of the place was shattered.
As we started down it was already getting colder and despite wearing both jeans, t-shirt and a jumper I was already freezing slightly. Spending the sunset hour up on the windy top and then walking down in darkness is not something I need to submit myself to... but others seem to think differently! Just ten minutes down from the peak we started meeting the forerunners of the tourist hoardes and within fifteen minutes we'd seen so many poorly dressed & ill equipped tourists that we were wondering if vacation also means that one leaves common sense at home. Some of the tourists were ascending this mountain to watch sunset - in chapalls, t-shirts and shorts! Shaking our heads in utter disbelief we quickly descended the mountain and returned home for dinner (macaroni & ketchup sauce...) just as the sun set below the horizon - thanking our lucky star we didn't stay on top of the mountain... cold, cold, cold.
On our second, and last day, in St. Catherine we got up early to pack our bags since we were leaving for Dahab later that day after visiting the monastery. As our minibus dropped us off at the front of the monastery we could really tell how much of a tourist attraction this place was - at least 10-15 tour buses parked outside and tons of mini buses as well! Our bus driver informed us we now had an hour (he wanted to make it 30 minutes but we refuse being pushed around like that) to see the monastery before taking off for Dahab.
Entry to the monastery was through a small side door and we had a hard time squeezing past the tour group blocking most of the passage on their way to see the 'burning bush' - allegedly a descendent of *the* burning bush - and getting their pictures taken in front of it. Interesting... it looked like... a bush! Hohum.... The church of the monastery was far more interesting though it was a bit difficult to find the peaceful air inside with all the tour groups passing through. By far the most interesting aspect of the monastery is the library. I'd have liked to go there but the entry fee for a walk there is a whopping £20 (abt. US $5) so I remained outside while Bettina followed the monk that was to be her guide there. As expected, it was an awesome experience and some of the documents in the library are more than a thousand years old! Most notably, a letter of protection for the monastery and its inhabitants from the profet Mohammed! The library is second only to the one in the Vatican when it comes to antique books and is now being scanned and put on the internet as a way of sharing the contents without jeopardizing the valuable books.
Beach life in Dahab
After our short, cold stay in St. Catherine it was a relief to get to Dahab for some sun and heat. We were half expecting the kind of touristy scene that seems to spring up wherever backpackers go in greater numbers but what we found was more a former backpacker place now well on its way to developing into a place catering to charter groups. Oh well, we got a cheap room for £15 with hot shower (salt water) inside at the Venus camp and enjoyed five lazy, cheap days walking down the beach, eating seafood and catching up on our mailing again. Bettina did some snorkelling and even went out to the 'Blue Hole' one day but I, being more or less allergic to salt water (I dislike it), stayed well out of the water preferring to do some work and reading instead.
As such, Dahab was quite an unremarkable place with not much to commend it or speaking against it. The only outstanding fact I can recall at this moment is that they once *had* a McDonalds restaurant... which was flushed into the sea by a flash flood. The location is still marked by a large empty space at the center of the beach walk through town :-)
In my next travel update, arriving shortly, I'll tell you why we didn't go to Siwa, how we finally got on the boat to Cyprus and how *not* to behave on the beach in Port Said.
But this is it for now, enjoy!
PS! A reasonably up-to-date map of our travel route can as usual be found at <http://wegototrip.to/>. DS.