If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, then Burj Al Babas might be the eeriest. Sitting near the Black Sea, the town is full of half-finished, fully abandoned mini-castles, 587 to be exact. Although, like most ghost towns, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. In fact, Burj Al Babas was planned as a luxurious, stately urban development offering the look of royal living for anyone willing to shell out anywhere from £330,000 to £440,000 for their own little palace. 

Sarot Group, the project developer, probably had the right idea when they chose a community of castles for their latest endeavour. After all, though European monarchies’ power and influence over their respective country’s politics may have dwindled in recent years, their stately châteaus, castles, and palaces have endured. There’s something about the dwellings’ undeniable extravagance and opulence that makes them utterly timeless. 

So it made sense: Rich foreigners uninterested in the south of France or the northeastern tip of Spain could enjoy the Mediterranean climate on Gothic-style rooftop terraces overlooking the lush Turkish forest. Not to mention, the spot for the little kingdom had an additional draw. Located in the Roman spa town of Mudurnu, which is well-known and well-loved for its hot springs and putative healing waters, each villa would boast underfloor heating and Jacuzzis on every level. Even in its current state, the vision for Burj Al Babas is still obvious: European luxury in the Middle East.

Why was the Disney castle village abandoned?

Construction started in 2014 and was expected to take four years, though, within that same time, the developers were forced to declare bankruptcy. As building the town got underway, locals became enraged with both the aesthetic of the homes and the business practices of the developers. According to the local news, many were frustrated that the castles didn’t resemble anything in the area, particularly the historical Ottoman-style mansions. A lawsuit against the developers also claimed the company destroyed trees and harmed the environment. Turkey’s economy then struggled in the years after the project started, and developers soon incurred a £24 million debt. With a combination of bad choices and bad timing, construction was halted.

Will Burj Al Babas ever be finished?

Even as investors and buyers pulled their money out of the £200 million project in 2019, Sarot Group was confident that it was just a bump in the road and the project would still be completed, according to a report in The New York Times. Of course, the pandemic soon changed life as many knew it and the project was left abandoned. Though it’s not impossible to say the project could ever resume, it appears unlikely at this point. 

Can you live in Burj Al Babas?

For now, the manor-dotted valley has become a neighbourhood of empty, half-finished shells. With many of the villas started but not one finished, the town remains unlivable. From afar, the grey-roofed neighbourhood looks like something out of a Disney movie – perhaps Beauty and the Beast – but, upon closer inspection, Burj Al Babas boasts an eerie postapocalyptic feel with rows of partially completed castles, patchy landscaping, and zero signs of life. The empty village is chilling, to say the least – like a sparkling city ravaged by war.

A version of this article originally appeared on Architectural Digest.

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