Small but bea Uti­ful Bo­drum

Known as the Monte Carlo of the Aegean, boasts a vi­brant cul­tural scene par­al­leled only by the town’s nightlife, windswept beaches and gleam­ing yachts. Shiva Ku­mar Thekkepat wishes he had a cou­ple of mil­lion Eu­ros to buy a villa there

Friday - - Homes -

It’s 1am and as the minibus trans­port­ing us from the air­port ap­proaches the small port of Bo­drum on the south­west coast of Turkey, bright green lasers sweep across the har­bour, al­most as if they are wel­com­ing us.

“That’s Ha­likar­nas, the world’s largest open-air night­club,” the driver says. Egos de­flated, we watch the lasers light up the 15th Century St Peter’s Cas­tle, cast­ing a spell across the town that’s his­tor­i­cal as well as a bur­geon­ing play­ground for the world’s jet set.

The driver goes on to tell us that rock star Mick Jag­ger’s daugh­ter, Jade Jag­ger, is a reg­u­lar there, and even has her own restau­rant, The Se­cret Gar­den, at the Ha­likar­nas. In its more than 30 years as a club, the Ha­likar­nas has seen A-lis­ters such as the late Princess Mar­garet, ac­tor Michael Caine and the Roth­schilds, as well as Jade’s dad Mick.

Sadly we couldn’t go straight there to join the elite in the VIP booths or strut our stuff on the am­phithe­atrestyle dance floors; we went straight to our ho­tel, the Mar­mara Bo­drum.

Sedef Baran, As­tas Hold­ings’ mar­ket­ing co­or­di­na­tor, is on hand to wel­come us. She and the staff of the beau­ti­ful bou­tique ho­tel on top of the hill over­look­ing the har­bour give us a taste of Turk­ish hos­pi­tal­ity, treat­ing us like long-lost friends.

In Bo­drum, small is beau­ti­ful. There is noth­ing showy about this con­tem­po­rary ho­tel, which com­bines tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture with flour­ishes of cut­ting-edge de­sign.

The warmth of the Turk­ish people is ev­i­dent in lit­tle touches – guests are wel­come to write graf­fiti mes­sages across a long cor­ri­dor to the right of the lobby. A quick scan turns up both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional lu­mi­nar­ies among the scores of vis­i­tors who’ve penned a few verses or sketched a piece of art on the white walls.

The rooms all have fan­tas­tic views across the har­bour. Stand­ing on my bal­cony, I shiver a lit­tle as the breeze turns cool. It smells like rain.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing I re­alise my in­stinct was cor­rect when I wake up to a steady pit­ter-pat­ter of rain­drops.

Though we are here to check out As­tas Hold­ings’ new bil­lion-Euro de­vel­op­ment, The Res­i­dences, Sedef de­cides to give us the grand tour of her favourite town be­fore­hand. She even gets hold of a learned pro­fes­sor of his­tory to give us some pointers about Bo­drum’s past be­fore the tour.

While we’d learnt about the many con­tem­po­rary stars who visit Bo­drum – Bey­oncé, Tom Hanks, Pamela An­der­son, UmaThur­man, Dustin Hoff­man, Naomi Camp­bell, St­ing, Ni­cole Kid­man and No­rah Jones, to name just a few – from our driver the pre­vi­ous night, the pro­fes­sor’s info proved that Bo­drum had been a mag­net for stars in the past too.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­fes­sor, in its more than 3,000-year life cy­cle, Bo­drum, then known as Hali­car­nas­sus, has seen more ex­alted

his­toric per­son­al­i­ties than any other re­sort. Ap­par­ently Antony and Cleopa­tra slept in Bo­drum. Alexan­der the Great, who con­quered the city in 334BC, was so cap­ti­vated by its coves and beaches that he broke off his mil­i­tary cam­paign to idle away hours ex­plor­ing the nu­mer­ous nooks and cran­nies along the coast and white sand beaches be­fore push­ing on.

The great­est of Greek poets and the au­thor of The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer, is said to have writ­ten, ‘Hali­car­nas­sus is the land of eter­nal blue.’ Per­haps he was tak­ing a break from writ­ing his epics.

To top off the list of an­cient who’s who, it turns out that Herodotus, the Greek his­to­rian known to the world as The Fa­ther of His­tory, was born in Bo­drum in the 4th Century BC. Bo­drum re­ally is steeped in his­tory.

The an­cient Bo­drum Am­phithe­atre is close to the town cen­tre on the road to Gum­bet and over­looks the tran­quil har­bour, cas­tle, and azure sea. The theatre stones were as­sem­bled back in the 4th Century BC. In those days ap­par­ently there was room for 13,000 spec­ta­tors. To­day, the out­door theatre is a venue for con­certs and other en­ter­tain­ment. Its mod­ern-day ca­pac­ity af­ter be­ing re­built is 4,000 people – far smaller than in an­cient times.

Bo­drum is also fa­mous for be­ing the site of one of the SevenWon­ders of the An­cien­tWorld. The ruin of the fa­mous Tomb of Mau­so­lus, or Mau­soleum, is open to the pub­lic, but af­ter two mil­len­nium of earthquakes, wars, storms, and be­ing sal­vaged for parts to build other struc­tures, there isn’t much left.

Parts of the Myn­dos Gate that faced the an­cient city of Myn­dos and was the scene of one of the blood­i­est bat­tles be­tween Alexan­der the Great and the Per­sians of Hali­car­nas­sus still re­main.

The im­pres­sive 15th Century cas­tle of St Peter, built by the Knights of St John of Rhodes in 1406, is at the cen­tre of Bo­drum’s two cres­centshaped har­bours. The cas­tle has a tem­pes­tu­ous his­tory and is full of re­mark­able sto­ries and arte­facts.

It also houses the fa­mous Mu­seum of Un­der­wa­ter Ar­chae­ol­ogy, with all kinds of trea­sure (coins, glass­ware, gold, weapons) found in ship­wrecks around the area in­clud­ing the old­est ship­wreck ever dis­cov­ered (14th Century BC). Some rooms such as the English Tower are dec­o­rated in the style of the me­dieval pe­riod.

Af­ter all those his­tor­i­cal de­tours, it is time to check out­The Res­i­dences. The site of this ex­cit­ing new de­vel­op­ment is Cen­net Koyu, which means Par­adise Bay. The name has with­stood for cen­turies, and it’s easy to see why: it truly looks like par­adise. The mild weather we ex­pe­ri­ence is said to be a con­stant. The cool breeze car­ries the smell of pine and olive. The crys­tal clear wa­ters set off the white sandy beach and just a few me­tres away are lush green forests.

The view from the property re­veals a stun­ning land­scape – beau­ti­ful pine forests and an­cient olive groves lin­ing idyl­lic turquoise bays, and a per­ma­nently balmy cli­mate.

Bo­drum has been given many favourable nick­names in its time,

Bo­drum is the site of one of the SevenWon­ders of the An­cien­tWorld

in­clud­ing the Monte Carlo of the Aegean and the lat­ter-day Sain­tTropez. But its aes­thetic is all its own.

Look­ing at the breath­tak­ing set­ting, there is no ques­tion why Ve­dat Aşci, chair­man of the board of di­rec­tors for As­taş Hold­ing, wanted to es­tab­lish the lux­ury ho­tel and res­i­dence project here.

Lo­cated on a 60-hectare wa­ter­front site, the de­vel­op­ment fea­tures a 2km stretch of shore­line with three pri­vate bays. The Res­i­dences at Man­darin Ori­en­tal, Bo­drum, in­cludes 98 vil­las and 116 res­i­dences, six restaurants, in­clud­ing al fresco wa­ter­side din­ing, a snazzy lobby lounge, pool­side bar and a sig­na­ture Man­darin Ori­en­tal Cake Shop along with a spa.

De­signed by leading ar­chi­tects, all the vil­las and res­i­dences are built on a se­ries of lev­els nes­tled into the de­vel­op­ment’s per­fectly land­scaped hill­side, sur­rounded by lush for­est and ocean views.

The vil­las fea­ture in­fin­ity pools and stun­ning in­te­rior de­signs. When com­plete, the Man­darin Ori­en­tal, Bo­drum, ho­tel will of­fer 82 exclusive guest rooms and 20 suites with views of the Aegean Sea.

Af­ter a grand tour of the property, we are taken for a cruise on Ve­dat’s su­pery­acht around the bay.

The property looks even more stun­ning when viewed from the sea, and the weather is per­fect for a lazy af­ter­noon in the mild sun. Idle thoughts float around my head – if this is not par­adise, then what could it be? A state of mind, prob­a­bly.

For Ve­dat, it is some­thing more. At €600 mil­lion (more than Dh3 bil­lion), the en­tire de­vel­op­ment is a tad above his usual deals in the tex­tile in­dus­try where he first made his for­tune.

But the Is­tan­bul-based ty­coon is re­laxed and happy. Ap­prox­i­mately 50 per cent of the res­i­dences have been sold. Prices range from €1.2m to €6m, and han­dovers be­gan ear­lier this year.

“Cus­tomers tend to be Turk­ish, Euro­pean and from the CIS,” says Ve­dat. The Mid­dle East also fig­ures on the list, though so far they’ve had only 15 cus­tomers from the Gulf.

This was be­cause un­til July 2012, buy­ers from the Gulf were un­able to in­vest in Turk­ish real es­tate due to the coun­try’s re­ciproc­ity law. Now that this rule no longer ap­plies, Ve­dat ex­pects more in­vestors from the re­gion. “The Turk­ish econ­omy has been very strong in the past 10 years,” says Ve­dat. “A lot of Ara­bic people are com­ing to Turkey to hol­i­day, to buy and for in­vest­ments.”

Ac­cord­ing to Turkey’s Min­istry of Cul­ture and Tourism, the num­ber of vis­i­tors to the coun­try from the UAE and Saudi Ara­bia in­creased by 82.84 per cent and 96.15 per cent last year, re­spec­tively.

Af­ter all that hard busi­ness talk, it was time for some laz­ing around, and Bo­drum is per­fect for just that. Af­ter wan­der­ing around the pretty restaurants and cafés that line the har­bour, we sit and sip a cof­fee while watch­ing the tra­di­tional Turk­ish wooden boats known as gulets bob­bing in the sea.

Later, while go­ing through the wind­ing al­ley­ways of the out­door mar­ket, we try out some of Turkey’s fa­mous leather san­dals. A pipesmok­ing lo­cal tells us that Ali Gu­ven’s shop is just across the court­yard.

Ali Gu­ven? The old man’s wiz­ened eyes grow large when he re­alises that we don’t know Bo­drum’s fa­mous

The vil­las fea­ture in­fin­ity pools and stun­ning in­te­rior de­signs

san­dal maker. When we meet the white-mous­tached yet youth­ful­look­ing Ali, he tells us he’s been mak­ing san­dals since 1966. The 68-year-old is sur­rounded by piles of card­board cut-outs of mea­sure­ments of feet and semi-fin­ished san­dals in his small work­shop.

Ali makes non-per­spi­rant san­dals con­sist­ing of a nat­u­rally treated leather sole se­cured to the an­kles by strips of leather. He’s made many for the rich and fa­mous such as Mick Jag­ger and his fam­ily, Bette Mi­dler and many fa­mous Turk­ish artists.

De­spite all that he still re­mains hum­ble, stuck to his small shop, al­most al­ways bent over his work. He’s not in­ter­ested in mak­ing money, but he would like to see a mu­seum for his work, he says. His san­dals cost around 100 Turk­ish lira (around Dh160), and are a steal at the price.

All too soon, it’s time to leave, and the with­drawal symp­toms hit us even be­fore we reach the air­port. The thought lingers: If we could chance upon a cou­ple of mil­lion Eu­ros, we could own a piece of this par­adise…

The 15th Century St Peter’s Cas­tle now houses a night­club

It’s easy to see why Bo­drum has been called the Monte Carlo of the Aegean

The clear wa­ters of the bay are sur­rounded by lush forests

Ru­ins, this pic­ture and bot­tom, are con­stant re­minders of Bo­drum’s rich his­tory

Clear blue seas and in­fin­ity pools, be­low, could all be yours… all you need is a cou­ple of mil­lion Eu­ros

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