Curiosities & Oddities Tunisia

Looking for Tatooine

Dear Reader,
When George Lucas heard the name of Tataouine he liked it so much that he decided to use the name for Luke Skywalker‘s native planet, Tatooine in his Star Wars saga. And given that this fantastic place is located in Tunisia, Stanito simply had to look for it 🙂 But what Stanito didn’t know is that Tataouine only served for the name of the planet, not the location itself. So when she and Travel Buddy reached this town, well, not much of space rockets were there (I’m so sorry Buddy!). It all started in a galaxy far far away… We have been driving for hours and apart from the obvious beauty of the desert, the dunes, the aircraft fun, and salt plains, we had to see the Star Wars movie set!

Star Wars logo

Luckily for us, Tunisia served as shooting locations for many of the Star Wars films, and as we drove through this beautiful country we encountered many spots that were used for the whole saga. Ksar Ouled Sultane, used in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as the slave quarters Ksar Ouled Sultane as Mos Espa slave quarters Stanito Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, later known simply as Star Wars Hotel was used to shoot the Lars dinner scene in Star Wars Episode II: The Attack of The Clones and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata as Lars homestead Stanito   Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata as Lars homestead Stanito 2 Some of the interiors and the courtyard of Luke’s house were filmed in this hotel as well. We could visit this hotel with no problem as many other people do, you can take photos and even see the painted ceiling of what was used for the Skywalker dining room. The funny thing is that in the movie, when Luke walks out of the farm, he appears in a flat deserted area (our mission goal), while in reality, as soon as you walk out of the hotel you’ll see houses, small stone hills and a lot of prickly pear-trees (a variety of cactus that is very common in Tunisia) out of Hotel Sidi Driss Stanito However our search mostly focused on finding the spot for the pioneer movie, the one that dazzled all fans around the world: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Easier said that done though, after much driving we started losing hope as most signs would drive us to Episode I and II locations only. But as we approached Tozeur, hints and signs were given to us until we found the Road to Tatooine. This road was built especially for the movie shooting, so that more than 60 tracks could easily reach the locations that will serve as Luke Skywalkers’ home town, Mos Espa, here in Onk Jemal (Berber for ‘camel’s neck’), about 38 km northwest of Tozeur and about 20 km northeast of Nefta Road to Tatooine Stanito It looked so promising that geeky Stanito couldn’t hide her thrill. We drove until the magic Tatooine appeared in front of our eyes and it looked exactly like in the movie Arriving to Tatooine far Arriving to Tatooine Stanito Stanito in Tatooine   Around Tatooine Arriving to Tatooine Stanito The unmistakable Darth Vader mask and Lightsaber  Darth Vader Tatooine The rockets that you see standing are entirely made of wood, which is impressive if you think about it, they survived through many sand storms and high temperature since they were placed in 1977 Tatooine rocket Stanito Wooden rockets Tatooine Details of the houses depict futuristic simple homes Skywalker external The inside of houses made basically out of papier-mâché Skywalker house Skywalker’s home door Skywalker's door Stanito A little gift shop with typical Star Wars souvenirs. The town is inhabited by two nomads who run the souvenir store Tatooine Darth Vader Obi Wan Kenobi presence Futuristic electronic device found out of most houses Tatooine door device Tatooine rockets Houses, aside the Skywalkers’ venue, are very small Tatooine small house Very small house Tatooine Tatooine town Stanito Unfortunately, one must not forget that we are basically in the Sahara desert, and the Sahara is slowly pushing dunes everywhere, jeopardizing locations such as this one as a huge sand dune has been tracked moving towards Nefta at a rate of 4 cm per day. It won’t be long before this alien town is buried beneath the sand. Go now!


    1. Thank you my friend 🙂 I’m really glad you liked it.
      Nathan, if you want to see it unspoiled you should go soon before the biggest dune in history swallows Tatooine away!

    1. Hi AHB 🙂
      Not really, in fact there was a clear distinction between the old movies and the new ones.
      The spots used for Episode I and II are located in very approachable areas, commonly found in hotels like Sidi Driss and troglodytes along the road, so we found many people there. Also, these places were conveniently indicated by clear street signs.
      However, spots such as Tatooine, none at all, in fact I recall seeing only one man who came right after us on his motorbike. He clearly was a huge fan of the old movies and was looking for the original set of the 70’s.
      Another interesting fact is that not many Tunisians are familiar with the movie saga. We were told in Matmata by a guy that he remembered meeting George Lucas at some point but didn’t quite understood what was going on. So him, along with most Tunisians, acknowledge the huge success of his work only by huge waves of tourists that the saga brought in.

    1. I found an article saying how tourism has been affected by the Tunisian Revolution: “Before the revolution, Tunisia managed to project an image of itself as an attractive holiday destination in the southern Mediterranean, concealing the ruthlessness of the regime in power that was finally overthrown in the first Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

      Many had hoped to see tourism rebound last year, but those hopes were dashed with the separate assassinations of two secular politicians in attacks that sparked political upheaval and fears of further jihadist violence.

      Even so, tourism receipts rose by a modest 1.7 percent to 3.23 billion dinars (€1.5 billion/$2.1 billion) from 2012, although they were 8.3 percent off the figure from 2010.

      Karboul said the country “is already safer,” adding that growth was starting to recover in Europe, Tunisia’s main tourism market.”

      But no quotes on why they haven’t boosted Star Wars locations before then.

  1. Unfortunately Mos Espa is a filming location from Episode 1 and 2. Mos Eisley was the city feature in A New Hope – not sure if those old movie sets are still around unfortunately. It still looks incredibly cool and I hope to make it there soon! Thanks for sharing!

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