Burj Al Babas: The Fascinating Story of Central Turkey’s Ghost Town
Imagine a picturesque landscape of rolling hills and dense green woods in Central Turkey, with hundreds of elegant, identical, Gothic-style castles arranged in semicircles. This is Burj Al Babas, a luxurious but abandoned development project that has now turned into a ghost town.
In this article, we will explore the intriguing history of Burj Al Babas, the reasons behind its abandonment, as well as the current state of the ghost town and its potential future.
The Vision Behind Burj Al Babas
A Luxurious Real Estate Project
Located near the historic village of Mudurnu in northwestern Turkey, the Sarot Property Group conceptualized Burj Al Babas as a massive property development project. The plan was to construct 732 luxurious, Disneyland-style castles, catering to wealthy Arab clients.
The development would also feature leisure centers, Turkish baths, a shopping center, and other amenities to attract visitors and attention to this part of the country.
The castles at Burj Al Babas were designed in the Gothic style, featuring picturesque turrets and balconies. The inspiration behind the design was a combination of French chateaux and Istanbul’s conical Galata Tower.
Each castle was planned to have its own pool, jacuzzi, and underfloor heating, with prices ranging between $400,000 and $500,000.
The Construction and Challenges
Initial Success and Local Opposition
Construction began in 2014, with some $200 million spent on the development. By 2018, 583 out of the planned 732 castles were completed, and a few were even sold.
However, many buyers decided to pull out when they learned about the challenges associated with the project.
Meanwhile, local residents of Mudurnu opposed the development from the beginning, as they felt that the Disneyland-style castles would clash with the history and culture of their village, which is known for its black-and-white Ottoman houses and a contender for UNESCO World Heritage site status.
Financial Crisis and Bankruptcy
The Turkish economy took a downturn, and the value of the Turkish lira plummeted. Sarot Property Group found itself unable to repay its heavy loans, and the project was abandoned in 2018 when the company declared bankruptcy.
As a result, the castles of Burj Al Babas were left unfinished, with the entertainment venues never even started.
The Ghost Town of Burj Al Babas Today
An Eerie Tourist Attraction
Although the castles at Burj Al Babas remain abandoned and unfinished, they have become a fascinating tourist attraction. Visitors to Central Turkey often stop by the ghost town to witness the eerie sight of row upon row of identical castles, devoid of any signs of life.
The Current State of the Castles
While many castles appear complete from the outside, they are unfinished on the inside. The roads between the castles are not completed, and construction debris can still be scattered around the site.
Despite the abandonment, the castles still stand as a testament to the ambitious vision behind the project.
Reviving Burj Al Babas: Possibilities and Challenges
Sarot Group’s Hopes for Revival
Despite declaring bankruptcy, Sarot Group remains hopeful that they can revive the ghost town of Burj Al Babas.
They believe they only need to sell 100 villas to pay off their debt and continue development.
Acquisition by NOVA Group Holdings
In recent developments, NOVA Group Holdings, an American multinational corporation, has acquired the entire Burj Al Babas project. NOVA Turkey’s CEO, Mujat Guler, has stated that they plan to continue the project as originally planned, actively targeting buyers from Gulf countries.
This acquisition brings new hope for the future of Burj Al Babas.
Potential Scenarios for Burj Al Babas
Remaining an Abandoned Ghost Town
One possible scenario for Burj Al Babas is that it remains an abandoned ghost town and continues to attract tourists for its eerie beauty. If the new owners cannot revive the project or find buyers, the castles may eventually fall into disrepair and ruin.
Completion of the Original Plan
Another possibility is that NOVA Group Holdings successfully revives the project and completes the construction of the remaining castles and amenities.
This would require significant investment and marketing efforts, as well as overcoming the challenges faced by Sarot Property Group.
A Rehabilitated Design
A third scenario involves adopting a “rehabilitated design” for the project. This could involve demolishing excess units and making architectural modifications to soften the “kitsch effect” of the castles.
This approach would require a careful balance between preserving the original vision and making the project more appealing to potential buyers and visitors.
Other Ghostly Structures in Turkey
Burj Al Babas is not the only ghost town in Turkey. There is also the abandoned village of Kayakoy, not far from the popular seaside resort of Fethiye in southwestern Turkey.
Dating back to the 14th century, this once-thriving community of Christians and Muslims was abandoned due to a forced population exchange in 1923. Today, it stands as a haunting reminder of a bygone era.
Furthermore, Turkey is home to the ruins of one of Europe’s largest wooden buildings, the Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage, which has been abandoned since 1964. Located on a hilltop on Buyukada, one of the Princes’ Islands, this immense structure has an intriguing history as a luxury hotel, casino, and later, an orphanage.
Burj Al Babas, Central Turkey’s ghost town, is a testament to the ambition and challenges of a luxurious real estate project that ultimately succumbed to financial difficulties and local opposition.
The future of these elegant, abandoned castles remains uncertain, but their fascinating story continues to captivate visitors and intrigue those who learn about this unique chapter in Turkey’s history.