Sunday, November 08, 2009

Baku: Even better next time!

I have invented a slogon for the tourist board of Baku, namely: Even better next time!

This is because the city is in the middle of a huge project of regeneration, with building after building and square after square under wraps as the stone's are scrubbed and crumbling bits replaced.

The cause is what the locals are calling the second oil boom. The first was back in the late 19th Century, early 20th when Azerbaijan produced half the world's oil and Baku got very rich in the process. All over town are large mansions in what we would call Victorian era design.

An economist I was talking this morning said he wasn't sure if this was the best way to spend the oil revenue. I think he's wrong and taking a too narrow view on return on investment, as what could be a better legacy for the future than a regenerated city, able to stand its own for decades to come.

But in the mean time visitors such as myself must accept that much will be hidden from view, waiting for next time.


Carol Anne said...

When we visited Prague for my kid brother's wedding, we found a similar phenomenon there -- it was almost impossible to get a shot of a historic building without a construction crane showing up in the background somewhere. Prague may not have the petroleum reserves that Azerbaijan has, but it has certainly been undergoing a major makeover.

I agree with you that investing in buildings and landmarks is a good thing. It may not provide an immediate return on investment, but it will make for better quality of life in the future.

In Prague's case, the old buildings have actually had a direct economic benefit -- the city can provide authentic movie sets for any historic era from Roman times on. Most other European cities suffered significant damage in WWII, but not Prague. The film industry is booming there.

JP said...

Unlike Havana where the old buildings are crumbling into dust - so sad.

You know I've never been to Prague, which is silly as the cheap airlines go there for less than the cost of the train ticket to the airport (in some cases)

Add it to the list....

Alejandra M said...

Investing for tourism, which is such a huge income for places like Spain, etc. I agree that it's a good investment.