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The attendant beckons. Mr Shabunin strips and enters a ceramic-tiled room. He
grabs hold of the ornate bath handle and lowers his body into 35 gallons of
black gold Fawley as a lot as a barrel. Orangey filaments swirl about on the
surface, sticking to the enamel and to the hair on his skin. The smell from
the 40°C bath makes our heads spin.

In the event you strain your eyes, you’ll be able to nearly make out the tankers plying the
Caspian Sea, transporting the sunshine crude that Azerbaijan exports to the
world. But the oil used here gushes out of the Earth at Naftalan, a small
town 160 miles north-west of the capital.

“Naftalan is just too heavy for the industry,” Dr Alif Zulfugar, the
manager of this unlikely spa, explains. “It is used just for healing
functions. It doesn’t get handled in any method. It passes instantly from the
supply to our tankers after which into our basins.” Purchasers flock to the
clinic from throughout the former Soviet states, and more and more from the
Emirates and even Europe.

Marco Polo talked about the virtues of Azeri oil in the thirteenth century. In the
Travels, he wrote of a “fountain from which oil springs in great
abundance … not edible however good for burning and to deal with men and animals
with mange, and camels with hives and ulcers”.

Within the pale blue corridors of the clinic, the yellow skin and sluggish gait of a
woman indicate that she has simply emerged from a bath. Tatiana Shabunin is a
dermatologist and she is preserving her husband firm during his treatment.

She discovered Naftalan oil in her textbooks while at medical school in Moscow
and has come out of professional curiosity and “for sheer pleasure”.

Others come for medicinal reasons. The crude is said to heal the skin,
treating circumstances like eczema and psoriasis; the joints, easing rheumatism
and arthritis; and the nerves. “Over a hundred problems in all,” Dr
Zulfugar says.

Nonetheless, the oil is sort of 50 per cent naphthalene, a hydrocarbon generally
used as a moth repellent. This poses a problem because EU laws deem
it a doubtlessly carcinogenic substance.

The doctor shrugs off these concerns, saying the restricted publicity of eight to
12 minutes within the bath, and not a couple of bath a day throughout a ten-day
remedy, means his patients should not in danger. Tens of millions of patients have
used the Naftalan baths, he says.

In their 1980s heyday, 75,000 individuals visited the crude spas every year. That
torrent turned a trickle in 1988 when war broke out between Azerbaijan and
ethnic Armenians in close by Nagorno-Karabakh. Five of the six Soviet-period
resorts turned refugee shelters.

Azerbaijan has since experienced a new petroleum increase, rising as a key
transit route crude oil realizations definition for oil from Central Asia to Europe. Gross domestic product
grew more than 20 per cent a yr on average between 2003 and 2007, making
the economy one of many world’s quickest rising. The country is so awash in
oil that people are literally swimming in it and Baku is cashing in.

“Look at this hill,” says Hikmat Ibrahimov, crude oil realizations definition the founding father of the
clinic. “When we began, there was nothing right here.” At the moment it boasts
a power station, eating places and cranes, many cranes.

In 2002, Mr Ibrahimov pulled off a coup by acquiring the correct to transport
the crude from the remote plains of the hinterlands to the very rich Azeri
capital. “With President Aliev’s help,” he dutifully adds.
Building began on a second clinic this winter.

In the VIP bathroom, the 18-12 months-previous bathboy, Ismael, helps the Russian rafter
to the shower for his 30-minute scrubdown. It would take Ismael three months
to earn the £300 pounds it prices for a ten-day treatment. He jokes that his
consumer will be taking just a few drops of black gold back to Siberia as a
souvenir: Mr Shabunin’s saturated skin will ooze crude oil for 2 or three
days to return.

Azerbaijan: Land of black gold
*A former Soviet Republic, Azerbaijan lies at a strategic crossroads
between the East and the West, sandwiched between Iran and Russia and
straddling a region emerging as a key transit route for oil and crude oil realizations definition gasoline from
Central Asia to Europe.

*Its eight.7 million individuals are principally Shia Muslims. They speak Azeri, which is
carefully associated to Turkish, although Russian dominates the capital, Baku.

*Gross home product grew by more than 20 per cent a 12 months on common
between 2003 and 2007, making the economic system one of the world’s fastest growing.

*Ethnic Armenian separatists, backed by Armenia, fought a struggle in the nineties
to throw off Azerbaijan’s control over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh
area. An estimated 30,000 individuals were killed. The presidents of Armenia
and Azerbaijan are anticipated to meet in Russia subsequent week for talks to end the
battle.