WTF Fun Fact 13229 – Turkey’s Burj Al Babas

Turkey’s Burj Al Babas was supposed to be a luxury neighborhood. But today it’s a ghost town full of abandoned castle-like homes.

What’s the story behind Turkey’s Burj Al Babas?

Turkey’s Burj Al Babas is a luxury residential development located in Mudurnu (near Istanbul). It is full of fairy-tale-style castle-like villas – 732 of them, to be exact.

The Burj Al Babas was developed by the Turkish company Sarot International. Their goal was to provide a unique living experience for residents to wealthy Turkish nationals and foreigners alike. Sarot designed each villa in the style of a castle, complete with turrets, towers, and arched windows.

With a commitment to sustainability, the luxury neighborhood could have been an example of future living. Instead, it’s a ghost town. The villas are abandoned. Sarot declared bankruptcy and had to abandon the project before anyone moved in.

Despite Turkey’s Burj Al Babas being situated in a scenic location surrounded by lush green forests and replete with swimming pools, parks, and playgrounds, the peaceful setting is a bit too peaceful these days.

Why are the villas abandoned?

According to Architectural Digest (cited below):

“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 $27 million debt. A combination of bad choices and bad timing, construction was halted.”

While the Sarot Group was still hopeful about the completion of its project in 2019, they did not predict the pandemic. That further scuttled their plans.

In case you’re wondering if you can move in (the properties were set to be a steal at less than $500,000) the answer is no. Not a single dwelling is totally finished, and there are no utilities.

The site is now reminiscent of a postapocalyptic city. Construction materials lay strewn about. And yet the shells of the homes still look like neighborhoods of Disney castles missing their princes and princesses.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Tour Burj Al Babas, a Massive Abandoned Town of Disney-esque Castles” — Architectural Digest

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WTF Fun Fact 13198 – Turkey’s Library of Books Thrown Away

Garbage collectors in Turkey have curated their own library from books thrown away by residents. The books were destined for landfills, but around 6,000 books now sit on shelves waiting to be re-read by the public.

Reusing books thrown away

The trash collectors kept finding books and eventually found a place to put them. It’s an old brick building outside of Ankara that used to house a factory. Its long shape makes it ideal for the long bookshelves that make libraries so fun to browse.

In the beginning, the trash collectors would stash the books and lend them to friends. But as more people heard about it and the number of books grew, they searched for a more sustainable option. The local municipality, Çankaya, found money in the budget to open a library with these books.

We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened,” the mayor of Çankaya, Alper Tasdelen, told CNN (cited below).

Turkey doesn’t have a public library system, so it’s up to each region to build, curate, and staff a library themselves.

A new collection and a public good

The library full of books thrown away has a full-time staff member. They’ve even converted a garbage truck into a mobile library/donation truck!

The public has started donating books to the library instead of throwing them away to rot in landfills. You’ll also find magazines and other types of reading materials in the library.

There are some other items found in the trash that have made their way to the library, such as furniture and even games. Some of the space acts as a social center for people in the town.

Talk about turning trash into treasure!

Check below for a video about these garbage collectors’ awesome efforts!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Garbage collectors open library with abandoned books” — CNN

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WTF Fun Fact 12666 – Unearthing An Ancient Underground City

In the Midyat district of Mardin, Turkey, there is an archaeological site tunneling beneath the residents. The older residents have long been told of the city underneath, but archaeologists still had no idea what they were in for when they discovered a hidden entrance to a cave a few years ago.

The cave led to a series of corridors and rooms. But further excavation found that there was an entire subterranean city down there. And it wasn’t a city lost to time as sand and dirt piled on top of it – this city had ALWAYS been underground!

In fact, the site is so big that they will never be able to uncover all of it (partly so as not to disturb the residents living above). (You can see more of this in the video at the bottom of the page.)

Historians have found evidence in archival material that the modern city of Midyat got its name from the word Matiate, meaning “City of Caves.” Matiate’s name is mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions from the 9th century BCE.

But this underground city isn’t just some dusty old tunnels. There are places of worship, water wells, and other community necessities within them, indicating that people lived in this underground city much like that would have above land.

While other underground cities have been found throughout the Anatolian region, Midyat’s is different. There is evidence that it was used to house people for nearly 1,900 years straight.

Gani Tarkan, the head of excavation for the site, explained:

“Matiate has been used uninterruptedly for 1,900 years. It was first built as a hiding place or escape area. As it is known, Christianity was not an official religion in the second century. Families and groups who accepted Christianity generally took shelter in underground cities to escape the persecution of Rome or formed an underground city. Possibly, the underground city of Midyat was one of the living spaces built for this purpose. It is an area where we estimate that at least 60-70,000 people lived underground.”

He continued:

“There was no a life above the underground cities in Nevşehir and Kayseri. But he stated that all the structures above the Midyat underground city were registered.”

“Underneath is a different history, a different period, and above it is a different date. While the houses on the top are dated to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, there is a completely different city underneath. That city is 1900 years old.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “The excavation, which started in a cave in Turkey’s Mardin, turned into a huge underground city” — Arkeonews

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WTF Fun Fact 12552 – Mithridates’ Poison Plan

King Mithridates VI of Pontus (aka Mithridates the Great) ruled what is now eastern Turkey from 120-63 BCE. The ruled while the Roman Empire was in its prime, but was its sworn enemy. His goal was to build his own empire, which required taking parts of Rome.In fact, according to the ancient writer Plutarch, in 88 BCE, Mithridates’ armies slaughtered 150,000 Roman and Italian noncombatants in one day in his quest for land.

More recently, Mthridates VI has been referred to as The Poison King. His predecessor Mithridates V had been assassinated with poison and he became obsessed with studying toxicology. There is plenty of proof of this, but what we’re not entirely sure about is the story that he microdosed an elixer of toxins to build up an immunity to poisons in case someone tried to assassinate him.

Ancient writers attest to the story, but modern historians aren’t so sure. Still, historians admit that there are enough sources with stories of some of his public attempts to ingest poison that it’s partly true.

It’s also likely that he conducted experiments on potential poison remedies by using prisoners as his subjects.

Ancient writer Pliny the Elder wrote that Mithridites VI created his own elixer made up of toxins he thought would make him immune to poisoning. It became known mithridate (or mithridatium).

But if the legends are true, all of these plans backfired on the king. Eventually, Rome came for him and on the eve of his capture, he did try to poison himself with the lethal dose of poison he kept hidden in his sword’s hilt. But it didn’t work. Some believe that it was because he shared it with his daughters (who both died) and there wasn’t enough left for him. But this only adds to the theory that he may have, in some way, made himself immune to poison. Of course, he didn’t save the recipe.

In the end, Mithridates VI convinced a servent to slay him with a sword to avoid being captured by the Romans. And there’s really no antidote for that. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Mithridates’ Poison Elixir: Fact or Fiction?” – World History Encyclopedia

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WTF Fun Fact 12427 – A Wooly Plummet

In 2005, Turkish newspapers reported an incident in which over 400 sheep died. It happened when one fell off a 50-foot cliff – and the rest followed!

That’s what they mean when they say, “don’t be a sheep.”

There were over a thousand sheep on the cliff that day, with each family in the small Van province of Turkey owning about 20 apiece. However, 1,100 animals survived the plunge because the hundreds of sheep that jumped first cushioned their fall.

At the time, the entire flock of sheep was estimated to be worth anywhere from $55,000 to $100,000.

According to the BBC, one villager told the Aksam daily newspaper: “Every family had an average of 20 sheep. But now only a few families have sheep left. It’s going to be hard for us.” – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Turkish sheep die in ‘mass jump'” — BBC News

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