So, I was fiddle-farting around on YouTube, as one does, with no particular destination in mind, when I stumbled across a music video entitled, MEDUZA, Becky Hill, Goodboys – Lose Control (Official Video). I’d never heard of them. (Her?) So I figured, what the heck. Give it a listen. If I didn’t like what I heard, I could always move on to something else.
That, that right there, is how one winds up spending a half day on YouTube. Just sayin’. But I digress…
Anyway, the song isn’t in my preferred genre, but it was a catchy tune. It would make a great ring tone, or something to be danced to at some club when you’re 20. (Do people go to clubs anymore?)
But what really left me glued to my monitor was the video itself. It was filmed in this strange place that looked, in my opinion, like the love child of Cinderella’s Castle and kudzu.
This place is so ugly that it’s beautiful. And it didn’t look computer generated. I had to find out where it was, if it actually exists.
With hardly any sleuthing whatsoever, I discovered that the video had been filmed in a housing development called Burj Al Babas, which is located in Turkey, half way between Istanbul and Ankara, the nation’s capital. That wouldn’t have been my first guess. But wait, it gets even better.
The castle-like homes are interesting. I’ll give them that. They do have turrets, and I’ve always wanted a turret. If I saw one such home, I’d find it delightful albeit quirky. It’s kind of an ill-advised mishmash of styles. Gothic meets Disney meets French Chateau, with a little Turkish, British and American architectural influence thrown in for good measure.
Unfortunately, the builders decided to erect 587 of these, er, unique villas, and they are all lined up like little soldiers on a hillside in the middle of nowhere. Burj Al Babas is now a ghost town, with nothing but stray dogs and cats and curious tourists roaming the streets. I bet it’s creepy at night.
It could have been worse, though. The original plan was to build 732 of them. The desperately hopeful catalog for this development explains that there was to be a central complex full of pools, Turkish baths, saunas, steam rooms, a shopping mall, health and beauty centers, cinemas, restaurants, sports facilities, gardens, a mosque, conference halls, and meeting rooms, as well as a car wash and nursery services free of charge for all residents. There would also be free internet.
I have to say that the images (unfortunately just mock-ups for the catalog) make the interiors look luxurious. A dwelling fit for a sheik. And indeed, the target audience for these homes was to be rich investors from the Middle East who wanted a vacation home in a Mediterranean climate.
And you could have one of these homes for $370,000 to $530,000 depending on location. Not bad. For a time, it looked like the developers would actually pull it off. They did sell 350 of them.
The developer broke ground on the site in 2014. Then, in 2016, there was a failed coup attempt in Turkey, which resulted in a great deal of unrest in that country. But the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was able to quash the coup.
Unfortunately, Erdoğan’s Turkey is rife with corruption, inflation, and military overreach. He himself now has the power to intervene in the country’s legal system. After the coup attempt, there have been purges of state institutions, and there is no tolerance of dissent. More than 50,000 people have been detained, including soldiers, journalists, lawyers, police officers, academics and politicians.
Recently, Erdoğan has attempted to criminalize adultery and introduce “alcohol-free zones.” He stands firm against equal rights for women, and disapproves of birth control and family planning.
Such was the atmosphere in which Burj Al Babas was being built. Needless to say, this was making investors nervous. And when oil prices plunged in 2018, many buyers backed out or stopped making payments.
The developers, who had spent 200 million dollars on the project to date, filed bankruptcy in 2018, and all construction came to an abrupt halt. The company was 27 million dollars in debt. They had tentatively resumed construction of the contracted houses in 2019, and then COVID-19 rushed across the planet in March of that year, leaving economic destruction, among many other things, in its wake.
The developer made one last desperate effort to keep their heads above water. In 2020 they stated that if they could just sell 100 chateaus, they would be out of debt and could start working on the projects currently non-existent infrastructure. Alas, it was not to be.
Burj Al Babas has since been snapped up by an American corporation, and they have yet to say if they’ll turn it into a tourist trap ghost town, complete the construction as originally designed, or soften the design so it looks less kitschy, and demolish the excess, unsold units.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of Burj Al Babas. If the political climate were more like it was when I visited Turkey in 2000, I think I’d make a beeline to this place, if only for the creepy photographs it would yield. Instead, I can only imagine it.
If you’d like to see some drone footage of the entire (un)development, check it out here, on YouTube.
The scene I can’t seem to get out of my head is an endless row of turrets, lit up by a full moon, with a stray dog wandering down the unpaved road out front. The only sound would be the wind kicking up dust in the un-landscaped yards. That would be something to see.
Are you wondering what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? How about my book, Notes on Gratitude? Place your orders now! (Or any other time, since we’re on the subject.) And… thanks!