Disney’s Magic Kingdom: It’s the stuff dreams are made of. And the most iconic building of all? Cinderella’s Castle.
With its gorgeous towers that loom over surrounding attractions, its in-demand restaurant, its character performances and its frequent fireworks displays, one wouldn’t be faulted for wishing they could stay there forever. It’s simply… magical.
But what if there were an entire village filled with lookalike castles? Would you move there in a heartbeat?
No need to wonder. Such a village actually exists:
Burj Al Babas is a $200 million housing development created by the Sarot Property Group, run by the Yerdelen brothers — a pair of construction entrepreneurs — and their partner, Bulent Yilmaz. The development, located near Mudurnu in northwestern Turkey, about midway between Istanbul and Ankara, is filled with over 700 identical villas.
The village was intended to be a luxury community for foreign buyers.
But then things went sideways.
A Development Dream
When the Yerdelens and their partner Yilmaz first conceived of Burj Al Babas, a project that began in 2014, they thought the area around the Roman spa town of Mudurnu would be perfect. The place is famous for its hot springs, and the developers were sure the mini-castles, whose rooftop terraces overlooked the surrounding forest, would draw in wealthy clientele who often came to Turkey to enjoy its Mediterranean climate.
They told prospective buyers of how the local hot springs would serve to heat their new home, and also claimed that the waters had healing properties.
“The thermal water can be used for drinking and steam therapy; it is first class in the world,” Mezher Yerdelen told the New York Times. “You can drink the waters, and it cures stomach ailments and kidney stones. If you bathe in it, it heals skin problems, rheumatism and slipped disks.”
As for the buildings themselves, the facades were inspired by landmark buildings in Istanbul, including the Italianate Galata Tower and the medieval Maiden’s Tower. The Yerdelens and Yilmaz also drew inspiration from British and American architecture.
Inside, homeowners would find a jacuzzi on each level (!). They would also be able to choose from three different layouts and could opt to have both an elevator and an indoor pool installed.
In all, the collection of villas would stretch over 250 acres, and the development was planned to eventually include a shopping center, Turkish baths, cinemas and sporting facilities.
It was a massive vision, and buyers ate it up. In fact, more than 350 of the houses — priced between $370,000 and $500,000, depending on location — were purchased.
The Economic Downturn
In the fall of 2018, however, the bottom fell out of the economy. In part due to the decline of the nation’s currency (the lira), Turkey’s inflation rate reached 25%, the highest it’s been in 15 years. In response, Turkey’s central bank raised interest rates. These occurrences, among others, have led Turkey into a recession.
The project’s developers have since filed for bankruptcy protection, and many buyers have backed out of their purchases. Still, developers hope that high-speed rail lines being developed between Istanbul and Ankara will lead to renewed interest in the area.
Until then, the development remains unfinished and abandoned.