Economists expect that by 2010 Azerbaijanís oil production will double the nationís economy. Unfortunately this boom hasnít helped the half of Azerbaijan that still lives in poverty. As a tourist, one can put a few extra bucks in the hands of locals and in return Azerbaijan rewards guests with a wealth of ancient sites and colorful traditions.
Azerbaijanís capital, Baku, lies on the hook shaped Apsheron Peninsula. Humans have lived on the Baku Bay since the Bronze Age (burial sites have been found in the Ichari Shahar, or Old Town). Baku's oldest building, the Synyk Kalah Minaret, dates from 1093. To cater to foreign business travelers, Baku has built a number of restaurants and nightclubs. Ancient mid-eastern architecture lives in peace with modern western amenities here in this Muslim capital. Those thirsting for local flavor can visit one of Bakuís many tea houses. The carpet weaving center at Nardaran offers wares to shoppers seeking Azeri craftsmanship. Neolithic petroglyphs and Roman graffiti adorn the caves of the Qobustan Museum, and at the Ate?gah Fire Temple, natural gas flames cough from the earth, amidst ancient ruins. Be aware that border disputes with Armenia keep the Nagorno-Karabakh region unsafe for tourism.