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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 physique into 35 gallons of
black gold as a lot as a barrel. Orangey filaments swirl about on the
floor, sticking to the enamel and to the hair on his skin. The odor from
the 40°C bath makes our heads spin.

If you strain your eyes, you possibly can just about make out the tankers plying the
Caspian Sea, transporting the light crude that Azerbaijan exports to the
world. However the oil used right here gushes out of the Earth at Naftalan, a small
town 160 miles north-west of the capital.

“Naftalan is simply too heavy for the trade,” 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 directly from the
supply to our tankers after which into our basins.” Shoppers flock to the
clinic from all over the former Soviet states, and increasingly from the
Emirates and even Europe.

Marco Polo mentioned the virtues of Azeri oil in the thirteenth century. In the
Travels, he wrote of a refined palm oil hs code “fountain from which oil springs in great
abundance … not edible but good for burning and to deal with males and animals
with mange, and camels with hives and ulcers”.

In the pale blue corridors of the clinic, the yellow pores and skin and slow gait of a
woman point out that she has just emerged from a bath. Tatiana Shabunin is a
dermatologist and she is keeping her husband company throughout his remedy.

She found 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 alleged to heal the pores and skin,
treating situations like eczema and psoriasis; the joints, easing rheumatism
and arthritis; and the nerves. “Over one hundred problems in all,” Dr
Zulfugar says.

Nevertheless, the oil is nearly 50 per cent naphthalene, a hydrocarbon generally
used as a moth repellent. This poses an issue because EU laws deem
it a probably carcinogenic substance.

The doctor shrugs off these considerations, saying the limited publicity of eight to
12 minutes within the bath, and never a couple of bath a day throughout a ten-day
remedy, means his patients should not in danger. Hundreds of thousands of patients have
used the Naftalan baths, he says.

Of their 1980s heyday, seventy five,000 people visited the crude spas each year. That
torrent grew to become a trickle in 1988 when battle broke out between Azerbaijan and
ethnic Armenians in nearby Nagorno-Karabakh. Five of the refined palm oil hs code six Soviet-period
resorts grew to become refugee shelters.

Azerbaijan has since skilled a new petroleum increase, emerging as a key
transit route for oil from Central Asia to Europe. Gross domestic product
grew greater than 20 per cent a year on common between 2003 and 2007, making
the economic system one of many world’s quickest growing. The nation is so awash in
oil that people are actually 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 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 appropriate to transport
the crude from the remote plains of the hinterlands to the very wealthy Azeri
capital. “With President Aliev’s help,” he dutifully provides.
Construction started on a second clinic this winter.

In the VIP bathroom, the 18-year-previous bathboy, Ismael, helps the Russian rafter
to the shower for refined palm oil hs code his 30-minute scrubdown. It is going to take Ismael three months
to earn the £300 pounds it prices for a 10-day therapy. He jokes that his
client will likely be taking a few drops of black gold again to Siberia as a
souvenir: Mr Shabunin’s saturated skin will ooze crude oil for two 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 gas from
Central Asia to Europe.

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

*Gross home product grew by greater than 20 per cent a 12 months on average
between 2003 and 2007, making the financial system one of many world’s fastest rising.

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

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