Burj Al Babas: Villas for Sale in a Ghost Town

Burj Al Babas: Villas for Sale in a Ghost Town

The modern ghost town of Burj Al Babas is located between two key Turkish metropolises — Istanbul and Ankara. The construction of this luxury residential complex began in 2013 and the project included 732 three-storey villas. Each villa was supposed to resemble a miniature castle. However, the developer went bankrupt, and the Disneyland fairy tale did not come to life; the village was not completed, and the purchased luxury houses remained empty. Read on to learn more about the prices of the properties and if there is any chance that construction of Burj Al Babas will be completed in 2024.

The Story Behind Burj Al Babas

The construction of Burj Al Babas began in the town of Mudurnu, located between Ankara and Istanbul. It is part of the Bolu province — a land of forests and mountains, thermal springs and other natural, as well as historical attractions. The complex was to be built a few kilometres away from the centre of the town. The work was carried out by Sarot Group on a total area of more than one square kilometre.

The idea behind the project was to attract Arab investors in Turkey with castles-like villas for sale. The project was expected to take four years to complete. Given the exclusivity and favourable location, some of the castles were sold in advance. For this purpose, the development company opened an office in Kuwait right after construction began.

Mudurnu residents protested against the construction of the Burj Al Babas complex long before the bankruptcy of the developer. The main complaints concerned not only the ridiculous architecture, but also the damage to the environment. According to environmental activists, construction workers destroyed several dozen specimens of rare black oaks and pines. A criminal case was initiated against the developer, and in 2018 it was supplemented by a lawsuit for causing damage to nature. 

Sales stalled in 2018 due to falling oil prices and the economic crisis in Turkey, which was a blow to the country’s construction industry. These events shaped the fate of the ambitious project — buyers refused offers and delayed payments. As a result, the developer froze construction and later had to declare bankruptcy. Many believe that it was the poor implementation of a good idea that drove investors away: the fairy-tale houses stand almost wall to wall to each other and there is little privacy, often prized by wealthy buyers. There is no sign of an outdoor area or a lawn in front of the castle, which does not comply with the principles of luxury construction. 

As of 2021, only 587 buildings have been commissioned, but none has been fully completed. Developers believed that the suspension of the project was temporary and claimed that construction would be resumed at a later date. However, the developer had to first cover debts, deal with the litigation, and sell at least 100 luxury cottages. Bloomberg estimates that the developer's debt amounted to approximately $27,000,000. The company managed to find a way out of bankruptcy and sell the project to a new owner, but construction did not resume.

The Architecture of Burj Al Babas

The dream city of Burj Al Babas in Turkey was supposed to include over 700 residential buildings, a shopping mall, a hotel complex, two business centres, a spa centre, and a mosque. It was intended for entrepreneurs from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, hence the name: the word Burj means “tower” in Arabic. 

Despite the involvement of foreign architects, the image of the future resort provoked criticism and derision among locals: identical Disney-style castles did not fit into the traditional development of the old part of Mudurnu. The fancy three-storey houses have two towers each, attic windows, and balconies with balustrades. The villas reminded many of French palaces, although there are exterior elements obviously inspired by the Galata Tower in Istanbul. A planned entertainment complex was supposed to resemble both the US Capitol and Rome’s St. Peter's Basilica. 

Mudurnu’s famous thermal springs also became part of the project; it was planned to build a spa complex with a water park, hammams, indoor pools, and saunas. Marble was supposed to be used for finishing. In addition, the developer planned a children’s club, a fitness centre, tennis and basketball courts, and football fields.

Burj Al Babas Property Prices

Initially, the implementation of the project was estimated at $200,000,000. The developer managed to use about half of these funds before the crisis began.

According to data from the official website of the project, the cost of luxury villas in Mudurnu varies from $310,000 to $530,000. It depends on the size of the house, its location, interior finishing, and other parameters. How the Burj Al Babas interior was planned to be? The interiors of Disney castles were designed to impress homeowners with high ceilings, roof terraces, wall mouldings, spiral staircases, jacuzzis on every floor, and other amenities. The most expensive cottages have indoor swimming pools and elevators.

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In a Nutshell

So, are there castles for sale in Turkey Burj Al Babas? The ghost town of Burj Al Babas is a popular location for tours. Sales in the residential complex have not gotten off the ground, despite the programme of giving residence permits for real estate investments here. As a result, palaces worth half a million dollars have sat empty for years. Local residents are disgusted at the sight of the village, and environmental activists have filed a lawsuit against the developer for destroying the forest. Whether the project of Burj Al Babas will be resumed is unknown.

Cover photo: Raffaele Nicolussi

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