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Feeling Low On Energy

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 as much as a barrel. Orangey filaments swirl about on the
surface, sticking to the enamel and to the hair on his pores and skin. The scent from
the 40°C bath makes our heads spin.

In the event you pressure your eyes, you can just about make out the tankers plying the
Caspian Sea, transporting the light crude that Azerbaijan exports to the
world. But the oil used right 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 business,” Dr Alif Zulfugar, the
supervisor of this unlikely spa, explains. “It is used only for healing
purposes. It doesn’t get handled in any way. It passes instantly from the
supply to our tankers and then into our basins.” Purchasers flock to the
clinic from all over the previous Soviet states, and more and more from the
Emirates and even Europe.

Marco Polo talked about the virtues of Azeri oil in the 13th century. Within the
Travels, he wrote of a “fountain from which oil springs in nice
abundance … not edible however good for burning and to deal with renewable energy technology blackburn men and animals
with mange, and camels with hives and ulcers”.

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

She discovered Naftalan oil in her textbooks whereas at medical college 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 situations like eczema and psoriasis; the joints, easing rheumatism
and arthritis; and the nerves. “Over 100 issues in all,” Dr
Zulfugar says.

Nevertheless, the oil is almost 50 per cent naphthalene, a hydrocarbon generally
used as a moth repellent. This poses a problem because EU rules deem
it a potentially carcinogenic substance.

The doctor shrugs off these considerations, saying the limited publicity of eight to
12 minutes within the bath, and not more than one bath a day during a 10-day
treatment, means his patients are not at risk. Millions of patients have
used the Naftalan baths, he says.

In their 1980s heyday, 75,000 people visited the crude spas every year. That
torrent grew to become a trickle in 1988 when war broke out between Azerbaijan and
ethnic Armenians in nearby Nagorno-Karabakh. 5 of the six Soviet-era
resorts grew to become refugee shelters.

Azerbaijan has since skilled a brand new petroleum increase, rising as a key
transit route for oil from Central Asia to Europe. Gross home product
grew greater than 20 per cent a yr on average between 2003 and 2007, making
the economic system one of many world’s quickest growing. The nation is so awash in
oil that folks are literally swimming in it and Baku is cashing in.

“Look at this hill,” says Hikmat Ibrahimov, the founder of the
clinic. “When we started, there was nothing here.” Immediately it boasts
a energy station, eating places and cranes, many cranes.

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

In the VIP bathroom, the 18-year-old bathboy, Ismael, helps the Russian rafter
to the shower for his 30-minute scrubdown. It is going to take Ismael three months
to earn the £300 pounds it costs 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 pores and skin will ooze crude oil for 2 or three
days to come back.

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 area rising as a key transit route for oil and gasoline from
Central Asia to Europe.

*Its 8.7 million persons are principally Shia Muslims. They communicate Azeri, which is
closely associated to Turkish, although Russian dominates the capital, Baku.

*Gross home product grew by greater than 20 per cent a year on average
between 2003 and 2007, making the financial system one of the renewable energy technology blackburn world’s fastest growing.

*Ethnic Armenian separatists, backed by Armenia, fought a battle in the 1990s
to throw off Azerbaijan’s management over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh
area. An estimated 30,000 folks were killed. The presidents of Armenia
and Azerbaijan are expected to fulfill in Russia subsequent week for talks to finish the
conflict.