It might look like fairytale accommodation from afar, but look closer and you'll find that this village of identical chateaux in the hilltops of northwest Turkey is an abandoned ghost town. Intended as a residential resort for wealthy tourists, the lofty project has yet to be realised.
Burj al Babas was marketed as a luxury housing development near the rural village of Mudurnu in the Bolu region, halfway between two of Turkey's biggest cities: Istanbul and Ankara. Work began on the luxury residential retreat in 2014 with plans to build 587 French-style chateaux homes in the area, along with entertainment facilities such as shops, cinemas, restaurants, concert and conference halls. Plans also included Turkish baths, saunas, steam rooms, a water park and space for tennis, basketball and football games.
The project has been put on hold after its developers, Sarot Property Group, applied for bankruptcy protection last year. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the developer had completed 587 houses of the US$200m (€175m/£154m) project before it went bankrupt, with 350 of the chateaux sold. The villas are worth between US$400,000 (€351,000/£309,000) to US$500,000 (€439,000/£386,000) each.
Reports in Turkish newspaper Hurriyet claim the development has caused “public outcry on social media, especially because of its contrast with the Ottoman-style historical mansions of Mudurnu.” The town was added to the Unesco World Heritage Tentative List in 2015 and is known for its pine forests, thermal springs and historic landscape which includes ‘Sultan mosques’ built in the 14th-16th centuries, a Byzantine Citadel and a colourful city-centre Bazaar.