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The ugly part of all this is that a waiter earns more than a professor, and now you phone friends before you drop round, to see if they have food on the table.In the Soviet times, everyone was poor, but no one was starving."She was right.I ate a fig for breakfast and wandered through rain-damp streets that felt like a Paris that had not been washed for half a century, until I came at last to the State Carpet Museum.On the grey walls of its many rooms hung thousands of carpets, and in the corner of each room sat a dark, beautiful and utterly bored attendant.Today, foreigners are still so rare that as you walk past the people blink in amazement. I arrived in Baku, the capital, in the middle of the night, driving through streets where only the flower shops were open, selling lilies to romantic insomniacs.I rose next morning as dawn broke over the medieval quarter to reveal a scene which, apart from the presence of Mc Donald's, Mothercare and a mobile phone shop, had not changed in 400 years.
Lianna looked out through the window and clutched her mobile phone, an icon of a brave new world that was always coming but never came.
Or me inside the Mercedes, looking equally baffled for the same reason: that Azerbaijan's share of Caspian Sea oil reserves is reckoned to be at least £50 billion, but none will find its way into the country until the companies pay off their development costs in a year's time, and even then much of it may well end up lining the pockets of corrupt politicians and businessmen. "I am sorry, sir, but the emu is only served at evening time," said the waiter carefully.
When I returned to town in the afternoon, the rain was still falling.
Then the Zoroastrians came, and lit an eternal flame that lasted longer than they did.
Then the Rothschilds and the Nobels, here for the same oil that had ruined Marco Polo's slippers, their fantastical mansions rising from the gloop and suck of ruined forests.