Caucasus: Baku Billionaire / Khazar Islands
The New York Times Magazine
by Peter Savodnik
February 8, 2013
In March 2010, Ibrahim Ibrahimov was on the three-hour Azerbaijan Airlines flight from Dubai to Baku when he had a vision. “I wanted to build a city, but I didn’t know how,” Ibrahimov recalled. “I closed my eyes, and I began to imagine this project.” Ibrahimov, one of the richest men in Azerbaijan, is 54 and has a round, leathery face with millions of tiny creases kneaded in his brow and the spaces beneath his eyes. He walks the way generals walk when they arrive in countries that they have recently occupied. In the middle of his reverie, Ibrahimov summoned the flight attendant. “I asked for some paper, but there wasn’t any. So I grabbed this shirt in my bag that I hadn’t tried on. I took the tissue paper out, and in 20 minutes I drew the whole thing.”
Once he arrived in Baku, Ibrahimov went straight to his architects and said, “Draw this exactly the way I did.” Avesta Concern, the company that governs his various business interests, subsequently commissioned the blueprints for Ibrahimov’s vision. The result will be a sprawling, lobster-shaped development called Khazar Islands — an archipelago of 55 artificial islands in the Caspian Sea with thousands of apartments, at least eight hotels, a Formula One racetrack, a yacht club, an airport and the tallest building on earth, Azerbaijan Tower, which will rise 3,445 feet.