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Lost Property
December 2011

Walking down the high street of Kalkan, southern Turkey, one is assailed by the practised tones of tourist-soliciting locals: "Hello, lady, nice fish for you. Delicious chips. You like beer?" Every shop, restaurant and bar bears the unmistakeable stamp of a community catering almost solely for its summer influx of Brits On Tour. Tesko's supermarket displays imported copies of Hello, OK!, and the Daily Mail. Ali Baba's All Day English Breakfast has a large plasma TV showing Match of the Day. At night, the marina comes alive with the sweet strains of Rihanna and other UK chart-toppers, and Mojito's Bar is doing a roaring trade in Jägermeister shots and Red Bull cocktails. Sterling is welcome, and the local economy is thriving. A few miles away in the Taurus mountains are villages with names like Islamlar ("The Muslims"), where no one speaks English and Ramadan is strictly observed. 

Kalkan vies with places like Bodrum, Oludeniz and Marmaris as a package tour destination of choice. Today, these Turkish equivalents to Malaga and Marbella are cheaper, offering many more lira to your pound than the euro. The sun shines just as brightly, and, moreover, kebabs are on offer. Turkey's popularity is rocketing with budget holidaymakers and also for foreigners looking to buy a second home in the sun. Real estate, unlike in Spain, is booming. Unfortunately, the eastern utopia is not all it seems. 

At Bodrum airport, a steady stream of Thomas Cook, easyJet and Pegasus planes disgorge their contents into the balmy Aegean air, and hordes of Geordies and Mancunians trot off happily with their package tour guides on to a bus that takes them on the "scenic" route into town. It passes brand-new glittering holiday villas which the guide will plug as the best buys in town. The guide happens to be a friend of the building contractor, and yes, perhaps there are some more deals on the market. And so it begins: gullible Brits caught by seasoned scammers. Barry Kartal, a Turkish investment fund manager who deals with property scams in the area, says: "These tourists leave their intelligence on the plane."

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