No, There Are Not Black Roses in Turkey

An ordinary hoax, or a tourism marketing scheme gone wrong?

Black Rose Halfeti Turkey
Ulbrecht Hopper via Flickr

Fake political news is now commonplace, but even in the travel sphere, it often seems like there's as much misinformation on the internet as there is information. This particularly applies to stories that seem to good (or too weird) to believe, which is why good travel writers now go to great lengths to vet destinations and travel-related subjects that appear here.

To be sure, if you do basic research into the black rose that apparently grows only in a village in southeastern Turkey, it might seem promising. Unfortunately, you'll rather quickly learn that this Halfeti rose does not exist—much more quickly than most the rest of the internet, apparently. That's the bad news: If you travel all the way to the remote village of Halfeti in southeastern Turkey, you will not be rewarded with the sight of the black rose that only grows there.

The good news? Halfeti actually seems like a cool enough place, albeit one that might only be worth seeing if you happen to be in Turkey already—it's quite a trek to get there, even from Istanbul or Ankara. But more on that in just a second.

Here's How the Internet Got Punked by the Turkey Black Rose Hoax

As is the case with many online hoaxes, mentions of the black rose of Halfeti exist primarily on social media. Initial research using search engines and other non-social sources might seem promising. One of the first articles you'll come across will appear on the blog of Teleflora, a large and seemingly reputable Australian florist. Although the language within the article flowery, it didn't seem outright hyperbolic, even if you're a "gotcha" at the end of the article, or to find that it was originally published on April 1.

It's only when you start searching for pictures of the Turkish black roses that you'll realize something is up. Even if you're not a professional photographer (or, as it were, a professional user of Photoshop), it's not hard to notice that all the photos of the "black" roses have their saturation completely turned down. To put it another way, they're black-and-white photos of roses colored like ones that grow in your garden. Surely, you might think, if a black rose existed, color photos of them would, too?

Then, of course, you'd head back to Google and started searching more specific keywords, which produced a deluge (pun very much intended—you'll see why later) of articles that will make you feel stupid for ever having believed the Turkey black rose hoax in the first place.

What is the Origin of the Halfeti Black Rose Hoax?

Some online commentators speculated the hoax was a clever marketing scheme by local tourism authorities in Halfeti. This seems unlikely, however, given that the rumor originated on an obscure Japanese website almost a decade ago. And, of course, given Halfeti's extremely limited appeal to foreign tourists, minus the false rumors about a naturally occurring black rose that apparently grows there.

What is Actually in Halfeti, and How Do You Get There?

Make no mistake: Halfeti is not a major tourist destination, although it is quirky in its own right, even if you delete the black rose myth from your memory. Halfeti, you see, fell victim to a Turkish government program that sought to harness the nearby Euphrates river from agricultural and energy purposes, and is now submerged.

The "old" Halfeti, this is—a "new" Halfeti has been built, combining reconstructions of old landmarks, as well as completely new buildings. What's interesting is that the "old" Halfeti is only half-submerged, which means that visitors can actually tour (at least partially) some of the sights in and around the old town, most notably the ancient Rumkale Fortress, which you reach by boat.

To reach Halfeti, fly to Sanliurfa Airport, which enjoys daily nonstop service form Istanbul and Ankara. No public transport exists to cover the entire 100 miles or so between Sanliurfa and Halfeti, so you'll need to hire a driver to take you, or rent your own car. Either prospect can be expensive, especially when you come to the devastating realization that no black roses wait for you here, even if any given Halfeti rose in normal color is sure to be gorgeous.

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