Baku, Azerbaijan, September 2008.

We got stuck 5 days in this oil capital because of next-door megalomaniac Saskawhatever who tried to grab Ossetia hoping he could take advantage of the moribund days of his friend the Monkey. That was 3 weeks before our departure and we almost could not cross Georgia, but we did, then got stuck on the shore of the Caspian Sea. A train bridge had been destroyed in Georgia, so, no freight was coming into Azerbaijan and, as a customs official told me at the port, No train, no ferry! The boat carries freight across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and Central Asia. Passengers are accessory, more like a nuisance. They wouldn’t give us any hard news during my 3 daily visits to the port, just, Nyet ferry! Thankfully Azeri and Georgian food is delicious and Azeri kids delightful to pass the time, at least those we bumped into in the back alleys of the old city. Ismail (here with Gunay), a 10-year old with a blue Tom-en-Jerry t-shirt, was very expressive and made my companion laugh hard. I was shooting and had not noticed. He was eating a bag of chips but was trying so hard to get my attention and have me shoot him too that he lost track of it. When he realized the others had taken advantage to finish his chips, he was so upset that he hit a wall with his fist. A retarded 12-year old girl mimicked him, only to cry from pain. Their address had Gasser Dongya, Red Door instead of a number.

azerbaijani street funeral in Baku

Baku, Azerbaijan, September 2008. Big events, here a funeral, take place in tents in the street instead of small apartments or expensive restaurants.

young executive in a Baku restaurant

Baku, Azerbaijan, September 2008.

Without sweet Elvin’s help, we would not have made it on the rarer and rarer ferry. The harbor babushkas simply ignore foreigners… and speak not one word of English. We invited him to dinner. Now he just got laid off from a bank, courtesy of the Western financial bubble. 

train in the vast azerbaijani plain

Agdas, Azerbaijan, September 2008. A train on the boring, flat Azeri plain at dawn.


Baku, Azerbaijan, September 2008.

In this nouveau riche capital I saw lots of kitschy towers new or being built, the construction not looking too great. Elvin told me a couple of them had been badly damaged during an earthquake which killed many people. There was a big space (above) ready for construction, with advertisement on the billboards, in English, Coming Soon, Over 150,000 square meters, Class A Offices, Double Height Street Front Shopping, International SPA and Health Center, Restaurants and Cafes, Over 2000 Car Pak Spaces. This was right across from the port and customs, so close that I furtively took a photo. Indeed, I had seen precious few foreigners, the whole city didn’t seem tourist friendly at all. Instead the place was teeming with late BMW model police cars, racing along the avenues and blaring their horns and loudspeakers both to fine motorists and clear the way for officials, very raw power.