GettyBAKU, Azerbaijan—From the 21st floor of the Landmark Hotel we look down at an ancient city of sandstone. It seems to lie beneath us as soft and delicate as an Azerbaijani carpet, full of contrasting colors blended into surprising harmony. At its best, this is a country where, for much of its history, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Jews and Christians have lived side by side, and the capital of Baku, which means “the city of wind,” has a very particular history. For millennia it was a crossroads, but then it was blessed (and in some ways cursed) with vast petroleum wealth in the 19th century. The first oil wells in the world were drilled here in the 1840s—eventually providing 95 percent of the Russian Empire’s oil, and half of the global supply. By 1900, Baku’s oilmen were among the richest people on Earth. This was a boomtown built on black gold, a “cosmopolitan Klondike,” and a jewel of the Belle Epoque, even though, as one visitor put it back then, “You can feel the oil and inhale the fumes. You walk among clouds of smoke which cover up the sky.”Read more at The Daily Beast.