Azerbaijan: The new Dubai | European Journal | DW | 04.05.2012
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European Journal

Azerbaijan: The new Dubai

As host for the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest, Baku is planning to show the world what it’s made of. Oil and natural gas have brought new wealth to Azerbaijan, and made its capital a modern and glittering metropolis.

Baku, Aserbaidschan. Hinten: Hochhaus, Hochhauser, FEUERSPITZE, Buerokomplex, Hotelkomplex vor Stadtansicht, Stadt, Altstadt. Reise, Baku (Hafenstadt am Kaspischen Meer), Aserbaidschan, 07.06.2011 Copyright: picture alliance/augenklick/GES-Sportfoto

Baku

A silhouette of the Azerbaijan national emblem is seen over the Neftyanye Kamny, Oil Stones, oil rigs at the shore of the Kaspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 13, 1998. The former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan is reportedly sitting on billions of tons of Caspian oil. But development has been slow, and the absence of a major export pipeline has keep most of the country's 7.5 million people in poverty. Jobs are scarce and monthly salaries rarely exceed 170,000 manat ($43).

The days when Baku was drab and dreary are long past. Now many facades have been clad in gleaming natural stone, and new high rises and luxury apartments are cropping up everywhere. Baku is trying to recast itself as the Caspian Sea’s answer to Dubai. But the newfound affluence is benefiting mainly the city’s oligarchs, who have a stranglehold on the local economy. As a result, ordinary residents are finding it increasingly difficult to afford life in the upscale – and expensive – metropolis.