In the hilly woodlands of northwestern Turkey, in Bolu Province, halfway between Istanbul and Ankara, sits an otherworldly sight: Burj Al Babas, the world’s most epic ghost town. Right next to the historical town of Mudurnu, which is famous for its 600-year-old mosque and traditional Ottoman houses, there are rows upon rows of turreted chateaus. The only residents are a few stray dogs and cats.
Burj Al Babas is an example of development gone terribly wrong. A property developer from Dubai, the Sarot Group, had the idea to construct 732 castles, plus a shopping and entertainment center and Turkish baths in one of the most beautiful parts of Turkey, not far from the Black Sea. Construction began in 2014, and they managed to more or less complete 583 castles (at a cost of $200 million) before economic disaster struck. The project was abandoned in 2019.
Developers say they still plan to revive the neighborhood, which has become an attraction in its own right. But residents of Mudurnu continue to oppose the massive “white elephant” of a development. What happens to these storybook villas remains to be seen.