If you are a fan of the Star Wars film series, then you are probably aware that main character Luke Skywalker hails from the planet of Tatooine, a dusty desert world inhabited by strange creatures and presided over by twin suns.
But you might not be aware that Tatooine is a real place, brought to life by real-world locations in Tunisia….in an area known as Tataouine.
Although a few scenes set on Tatooine were filmed in Death Valley in the United States, the majority of desert scenes in the original Star Wars were filmed in Tunisia, with subsequent films in the series also returning to shoot footage in the country.
Many of the original sets used to film Star Wars in Tunisia still remain standing today, and have become some of the most popular attractions for tourists in the country. Read on to discover which Star Wars locations in Tunisia are worth visiting, and how to get between them.
When Was Star Wars Filmed in Tunisia?
Filming for the original Star Wars film first began in Tunisia in March of 1976 near the Sahara desert. Star Wars creator George Lucas had originally planned for Tatooine to be a jungle planet, and locations had been scouted in the Philippines, but it was later decided that Luke Skywalker’s home would be a desert-filled world.
A construction crew took 8 weeks to transform desert locations in Tozeur into a convincing otherworldly landscape, while filming took place in Chott el Djerid and in the sand dunes near Nafta, where the giant skeleton of an alien creature was placed for scenes featuring the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO.
Although Lucas did not shoot the Tatooine scenes in Return of the Jedi in Tunisia, he later returned to the country to film footage for the prequel film, The Phantom Menace, in 1997.
The fictional city of Mos Espa, home to a young Anakin Skywalker, was constructed from scratch in the desert near Tozeur, and traditional Berber architecture in the Tataouine area was used to portray the slave quarters where Anakin lives with his mother.
Lucas also returned to Tunisia to film scenes for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in 2000 and 2003, respectively, for scenes featuring actors including Natalie Portman and Ewan Mcgregor.
List of Tunisia Star Wars Locations
Although some of the sets created for Star Wars filming in Tunisia have been destroyed by time and the desert environs, many of the structures are still standing and continue to draw visitors who wish to experience the magical atmosphere for themselves.
The best-preserved Star Wars sets in Tunisia include:
- Ksour – These traditional fortified granaries in the Tataouine area were used to represent the Mos Espa slave quarters in the prequel trilogy and are instantly recognizable for their multi-storied vaulted rooms. Two seperate Ksour were used for filming, the Ksar Haddada and the Ksar Oued Soltane, one of the biggest in Tunisia.
- Matmata – This small hamlet near Tunisia’s southeastern coast was used as a stand in for the Lars homestead, where Luke Skywalker was raised by his aunt and uncle. Visitors can take in the farm buildings used for exterior scenes,and can even stay in the location for interior shots, the Hotel Sidi Driss. This underground labyrinth of interlinked tunnels and rooms still contains many of the original props used for filming.
- Nefta – This tiny desert-bound town is home to the distinctive entrance dome to Luke Skywalker’s homestead. As it was rebuilt for Revenge of the Sith, the structure is in good condition and the perfect spot for a photo opportunity at sunset.
- Ong Jemal – Visitors can discover one of the best-preserved and most extensive Star Wars sets in Tunisia deep in the depths of the Tozeur desert, where the town of Mos Espa still stands intact. True Star Wars fans will want to take their time to wander among the surreal buildings and enormous moisture vaporators and imagine they really are in a galaxy far, far, away.
While in the area of Ong Jemal, Star Wars completists may be tempted to take the short trip out to the striking desert bluffs where the evil Darth Maul spied upon his prey in the The Phantom Menace. Fans may also want to visit the Chott el Jerid salt flats used for landspeeder scenes in the original film.
How to Visit the Star Wars Tunisia Filming Locations
As the majority of the Star Wars filming sets are located deep in the desert, it can be difficult for visitors to use Tunisia public transport options to get around all of the locations.
Visitors are able to rent a hire car and easily travel between most of the sets, or hire a taxi for the day from Tataouine.
However, some locations like Ong Jemal and Mos Espa can only be reached by 4×4. The best option to visit the Mos Espa set is to take a Tunisia Star Wars day tour from Tozeur with a guide.
It is also possible to take a 7-day Star Wars tour which includes all of the most important locations, and also allows visitors to take in important World Heritage sites in Tunisia like Kairouan and the Medina of Tunis.
Before planning to visit the Tunisian Star Wars locations, foreign citizens should first check if they require a visa for Tunisia to enter the country for purposes of tourism.