The Rise and Fall of Burj Al Babas
The Rise and Fall of Burj Al Babas: Burj Al Babas, an abandoned housing development in Turkey, consists of hundreds of miniature Disney-like chateaus that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
Originally envisioned as a luxurious holiday retreat for the world’s super-rich, this neighborhood of castle-inspired villas was intended to be nestled in a picturesque valley near the historic village of Mudurnu in northwestern Turkey.
However, Burj Al Babas is now one of the world’s largest ghost towns, featuring hundreds of unfinished villas, some of which have already begun to deteriorate. The story behind it involves grand ambitions, exorbitant property prices, and economic troubles that ultimately led to the downfall of the Burj Al Babas dream.
The Yerdelen brothers, who operated the construction company Sarot Property Group, conceived this unique chateau village in Turkey. Their aim was to attract affluent buyers from the Middle East, who were drawn to Turkey’s Mediterranean climate and stunning landscapes. They priced the villas accordingly, initially selling the Disney-like chateaus for $400,000 to $500,000 each. The Yerdelen brothers managed to sell around half of the more than 700 residences before encountering challenges.
First, a decline in oil prices impacted the target buyers, followed by a series of events that sent the Turkish economy into a downward spiral from which it has yet to recover. The project was ambitious, with plans for each villa in Burj Al Babas to include under-floor heating, Jacuzzis on every level, and the option of an indoor pool. A shopping mall inspired by the US Capitol was also planned to serve the entire complex, while lush gardens and ponds were intended to create a truly enchanting landscape.
Construction began in 2014, and at its peak, over 2,500 workers were involved in the project near Mudurnu. However, sales stagnated, the value of the Turkish lira plummeted, Sarot Property Group faced loan repayment difficulties, and construction came to a halt. By 2019, Burj Al Arab was less than halfway completed, and progress has been minimal since then.
None of the 530 villas built so far, none of which have been finished, are currently occupied. Instead of being a bustling holiday retreat for wealthy Gulf businessmen, Burj Al Babas has become a haunting attraction for tourists intrigued by ghost towns.
Despite the fact that the project remains far from completion, developers have already spent $200 million on Burj Al Babas and are not ready to give up just yet. Sarot Property Group, despite filing for bankruptcy, hopes to ultimately deliver the paradise it once promised its affluent clients. The Turkish government has also shown support for the project, although the current outlook is bleak.
In 2018, Mezher Yerdelen, deputy chair of Sarot Property Group, stated, “We only need to sell 100 villas to pay off our debt. I believe we can overcome this crisis in four to five months and partially inaugurate the project in 2019.” However, this was before the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which further complicated the situation.
The luxury ghost town of Shenyang is oddly similar to Burj al Babas, Turkey’s famous ghost town of abandoned fairytale castles.