Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Republic in the Caucasus located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe which regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The government is a kleptocracy of the Aliyev family and their allies and following its independence, Azerbaijan has allowed western companies to develop its neglected, but extensive, oil fields and has seen oil production skyrocket especially since the mid-2000s. Despite this and related investments, most of the new-found wealth remains in the hands of a small number of people and the capital city of Baku.

While Baku is full of new “Dubai-styled” architectures such as the The Flame Towers which are completely covered with LED screens that display the movement of a fire visible from the farthest points of the city and a growing middle class, much of the country remains poor.

The Absheron Peninsula near Baku is also known as the “land of fire” due to the presence of natural gas sources such as the Yanar Dağ “the burning mountain” fire which blazes continuously on a hillside and the Ateshgah (Fire Temple) which was one of the most important centers of Zoroastrianism in history and a pilgrimage center of hindu fire worshipers from Multan (in today’s Pakistan), who were trading with Caspian areas via the famous “Grand Trunk Road”.