It should be the most fabulous city in the world, what happened to Burj Al Babas?

2023-04-27 07:55:00, Kuriozitete CNA
It should be the most fabulous city in the world, what happened to Burj Al
Illustrative photo

Halfway between Istanbul and Ankara, in one of the most historic and beautiful parts of Northwest Turkey, lies a deep valley covered with dense pine forests and full of thermal springs. And in this valley there is a place that looks like it came out of a Disney movie.

Hundreds of buildings in the form of identical castles between them. When the occasional morning mist covers the blue towers, it looks like a scene out of dreams. But when you look a little closer, you notice that something is wrong. The roads between them are still unfinished.

Construction material waste is dumped here and there. And there is no human foot on the horizon. It is a fabulous ghost town, a very ambitious and luxurious development project that fell victim to mismanagement and the global financial crisis.

Burj Al Babas is located a few kilometers from the historic city of Mudurnu, once a crossroads between the Silk Road and the Crimean Road. Over the years, it lost its position as a trading center, but was later reborn as the center of the poultry industry.

It has recently turned to tourism to boost the local economy, partly through the efforts of the Directorate of Cultural Heritage Site Management. Turkish officials have even proposed making the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including its characteristic black-and-white Ottoman palaces.

By the early 2000s, Mudurnu and its thermal springs attracted the attention of property developers and investors. Among them was the Sarot Properties Group, which had already built two hotels near the thermal springs in the area. Then the company came up with its next idea: Burj Al Babas, a collection of luxury vacation homes that would cater to wealthy Arab customers.

Inside them would be a luxurious Turkish bath, a shopping and entertainment center and many other things. The project immediately met with strong opposition from some groups of Mudurnu residents.

While some saw the development as a source of employment that could boost the local economy, many others defended the region's existing cultural heritage, and feared the impact it could have on local infrastructure.

“They planned something that they thought would please their customers, without ever considering the cultural clash with Mudurnu's history. So for them it doesn't matter much that this concrete monster is not in line with Mudurnu's vision" - says Ajse Jildirim, urban planner specialized in the preservation of cultural heritage.

Despite the opposition, the Sarot company plan began implementation of the project in 2014, with about $200 million spent on the construction of 587 of the planned 732 villas. But when the country was hit by the financial crisis of 2018, when the property market collapsed, the global economic situation worsened and the Turkish lira lost value, Sarot declared bankruptcy.

Puna në terren është ndalur. Ndonëse shumë nga vilat kanë përfunduar - ose të paktën kështu duken nga jashtë - asnjë nga infrastrukturat e tjera nuk është e përfunduar. Tani duket se Burj Al Babas është bërë një lloj tjetër tërheqje turistike, një ndalesë kurioze për ata që vijnë për të parë qytetin historik dhe liqenin idilik Suluklu aty pranë.

It should be the most fabulous city in the world, what happened to Burj Al

Por historia nuk përfundon me një qytet-fantazmë shumë të kushtueshëm. Në vitin 2020, Sarot doli nga falimentimi, me besimin se mund të shiste shumë nga vilat - 100, sipas vlerësimit të tyre - për të shlyer borxhin e tyre dhe për të vazhduar zhvillimin e projektit.

Së fundmi, i gjithë projekti u ble nga NOVA Group Holdings, një korporatë shumëkombëshe amerikane. Mujat Guler, kreu i NOVA Turkey thotë:“Po, ne e kemi blerë këtë projekt dhe disa të tjera nga Sarot. Ne do të vazhdojmë siç është planifikuar dhe ashtu si Sarot, po fokusohemi vazhdimisht drejt vendeve të Gjirit për klientët tanë të ardhshëm”.

Jildirim thotë se ka disa skenarë të mundshëm për atë që mund të ndodhë më pas. Në varësi të planit të NOVA-s, Burj Al Babas mund të mbetet një qytet fantazmë dhe një atraksion turistik i çuditshëm dhe i shtrenjtë vetëm për këtë arsye. Ose NOVA mund të vendosë të vazhdojë përpara më projektin dhe të përfundojë të gjitha pjesët e projektit.

And finally, many wonder whether it is possible to proceed with what he calls a "rehabilitated project", with the demolition of redundant buildings and some architectural modifications. Whether the project can or should be saved is not yet known for sure./ Adapted from CNA.al

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