Like a lot of 70’s kids I loved Star Wars. I’ve just returned from an amazing week’s holiday in Tunisia with my wife and sons. During our visit we were lucky enough to visit a couple of locations used during the production of the Star Wars films A New Hope and Phantom Menace.
Both sites were situated in the far south of the country, well away from the popular tourist spots of the north. Undeterred, we booked a two-day tour that went on to cover nearly 1300 km, we rode through a sandstorm in the Sahara and enjoyed an adrenalin-fueled 4×4 rally drive along a section of an old Paris-Dakar route.
The first Star Wars location we visited was Uncle Owen’s moisture farm situated in Matmata. Here’s a zoomed-in view from Google Maps . . .
You can zoom out to get a better idea of where this is located. If you zoom out far enough you’ll see a town to the south-east called Tataouine. That’s no coincidence. George Lucas did indeed name a certain planet after that town. After having left our hotel in Hammamet at 5am, we arrived in Matmata just after 1pm, so this was already 5 hours and around 500 kilometres into the two-day tour.
Uncle Owen’s moisture farm is now a hotel, though we only stayed there for a walkabout, some photos and to grab a little brik for lunch.
Here’s a selection of photos from the place. A cave dwelling like this isn’t that unusual in Tunisia. They were, and still are, commonly used by the Berber people . . .
I guess the site is well-preserved considering it’s 30-year heritage, but I had rather mixed feelings about the place. It just seemed so far removed from my memories of the film with its location at the edge of a small town and the gaudy yellow paint daubed everywhere. But I was still grinning like a kid whilst I wandered around!
We continued our journey west. Later that day we had an interesting experience when we encountered a sandstorm during a ride into the Sahara and then we stayed the night at a hotel in Douz. The following day we had another early rise: 3.45am! After an hour or so into the journey we pulled over to the side of the road to watch the sunrise over the Chott el Djerid salt flats. After another couple of hours we disembarked to a Land Cruiser convoy and experienced a rather exhilarating 4×4 rally drive through the Sahara desert to our second Star Wars location, Mos Espa.
Here’s another Google maps view . . .
If you zoom out you can see that there’s really nothing else nearby, no towns or villages.
Here’s a selection of photos from Mos Espa. . .
You might have read about the entire site being threatened by the creeping Saharan sands. You can already see the sand encroaching in a couple of those photos.
Even though we arrived before 9am we could already feel the temperature beginning to climb. Our guide told us that this was one of the reasons for the early alarm call: temperatures would be hitting 45-50 degrees celsius around lunchtime.
Now I certainly prefer the original Star Wars films (IV-VI) over than the new ones (I – III), but Mos Espa had a great feel about the place. Climbing up onto one of the dunes all you can see is miles and miles of Saharan desert. Fantastic!
After that we clambered back aboard our Land Cruiser, hacked back to change over to our coach and spent most of the rest of the day on the long journey back to our hotel in Hammamet.
Was it worth it? Damn right it was! Completely knackering. I was surprised that I enjoyed the Mos Espa location rather more than Uncle Owen’s farm. And the 4×4 ride was incredible!