Matmata Tataouine:  Tunisia

Star Wars Earth Base

Tatooine on Earth
Berber inhabitants of ksar Douiret gaze at the extraterrestrial scenery of the surrounding desert during a sandstorm.
The Strength vs The Class
Tunisian in a tuxedo crosses the Sidi Driss hotel, out of step with the intergalactic look inherited from the décor of the Lars family property on the planet Tatooine.
In a troglodyte background
Hotel employee Sidi Driss crosses one of the establishment's many troglodyte ditches, earthy as ever from recent rains.
Fortified Heights of Douiret
The steep hill on which the Ksar Douiret settled, one of many on the outskirts of Tataouine, (the village with the name adapted by George Lucas).
sunny rest
Berber woman rests at the entrance of one of the troglodyte compartments of the Sidi Driss hotel used to serve meals to guests.
Berber clones
Berber elders in traditional jelabas line up and confront each other during a cultural exhibition at the Festival of the Ksours
The Force (of arms)
A worker loaded with a beverage rack crosses the courtyard of the troglodyte moat that the Sidi Driss hotel has turned into a restaurant.
earthen army
An entourage of Berber elders descends a desert slope on the outskirts of Tataouine.
An Extraterrestrial Scene
Eccentric landscape of plateaus and sky tinted red by sandstorms in the Sahara desert, south of Tataouine.
For security reasons, the planet Tatooine from "The Force Awakens" was filmed in Abu Dhabi. We step back into the cosmic calendar and revisit some of the Tunisian places with the most impact in the saga.  

We stroll through the heart of the Lars family moisture-producing farm.

We found no sign of Luke Skywalker or any other member of the vast clan that had long inhabited these imaginary places.

It's real humans – both native and resident and from afar – the ones we see around and at the bottom of the many caves dug in the sandy soil southeast of the oasis of Gabes, not in the imaginary Great Salt Flat of Chott, nor in the wastelands and fictitious pictures of Jundland.

It was also only on screen that this farm Luke Skywalker grew up on until he was 19, raised by Owen and Beru, was burned by the Galactic Empire when his army sought the droids C-3PO and R2-D2.

We are in Matmata, a real troglodyte city that is now Tunisian and where, as thousands of years ago, more than 6.000 earthlings use these concavities as their homes, silos, warehouses and even businesses.

The Terran and Tunisian Lair of Matmata

We circle around five round ditches. We peek inside with extra care to avoid falling to the bottom. These days, the complex filmed as the Lars' home is Sidi Driss' hotel.

Four of these pits house Spartan rooms. The fifth is a restaurant. It houses and serves travelers who are enthusiastic about the eccentricity of the establishment and the region's scenery, in particular by those selected by the team. George Lucas to illustrate Tatooine, the first planet in the Tatoo binary solar system.

A star far drier and more peculiar than the landscape that inspired it.

The base of this fourth clayey hole is whitewashed and painted in indigo. It has windows and ogival or round doors distributed around the circumference. We heard muffled screams coming from one to another.

Nothing to match the sound of the Star Wars protagonist's laser saber or the futuristic weapons with which their enemies and allies clashed.

Reality Now Only Sidi Driss's Restaurant

Instead, waiters fight against time and bosses. They cross the earthy courtyard late and hurriedly, with trays full of food and drink. Or, in the opposite sense, the dishes that accommodated them.

The absence of references in the saga is, however, far from being total. A white vent retains a gold disk with a spatial design. Several door frames preserve strange modular grooves. Both items were inherited from the footage.

After the first movie “A new hope”, the entire decor has been removed. In 2000, the sequel “Attack of the clones” forced the reconstruction of a large part.

Today, whether they are fans or not, guests or visitors to the hotel have lunch or dinner with a feeling even the slightest part of being part of the saga. As we see it happening again and again, they photograph themselves emulating the most emblematic scenes of the sidereal epic.

The Obsessive Cult of Star Wars Fans

As Raisha, a local guide, tells us, some of her addicts are not content with so little: “Some time ago, we learned around here that a group has created a fund to recover the exterior of the Lars' farm! They collected almost 15 thousand dollars!” she informs us, incredulous at the exorbitant value that that lost igloo in a desert nowhere in Chott El Jerid deserved.

The igloo was destroyed after the filming of the first trilogy, rebuilt for the “Attack of the clones"and "The Sith Revenge” and, therefore, abandoned to erosion.

“Not only did they raise the money, but five or six rescuer friends came here on tour. They only came back after rebuilding it.

Later, they presented the project, all happy, in Germany, part of some ephemeris of the “Star Wars” and even released a book describing everything.”

From Matmata to Tataouine. And from Tataouine to Star Wars Tatouine

We take advantage of the relative proximity. The next day, we'll go to Tataouine where a Tunisia's emblematic ethnic and cultural festival, the Ksour. When we arrived, the area was under a sandstorm. It remained surrounded by a somewhat Martian, ocher, dusty atmosphere, much more humid than is supposed to be in a desert.

George Lucas and his collaborators may not have been so lucky – or unlucky, depending on your point of view – anyway, Tataouine's extraterrestrial scenarios inspired the director in such a way that he borrowed his name for the saga.

The name and not only.

On a visit to the outskirts of the city, the unexpected sight of the ksour, fortified barns of compact sand. We admire them projected from the ground, divided into several ghorfas (store cells) turned out to be perfect models for the slave wing of the Mos Espa spaceport, home of Anakin and Shmi Skywalker, prominently featured in the first episode, “The Phantom Menace".

A historic landmark written in rhodes (one of several pretending dialects of conflicting peoples) proclaimed at the entrance to this obscure modular place: “We forged this city under the heat of twin suns, in memory of our ancestors, in honor of our living clans and for the hope of our unborn children.”

The Berber and Desert Atmosphere that Inspired the Star Wars Scenarios

The Berbers of Tataouine are not given to advertising such pompous writings. When we enter Ksar Ouled Soultane, a politician from Tunis visits and the elders of different tribes participate in a banquet.

In a real dimension, terrestrial and strongly photogenic, its mere presence takes on a symbolism similar to that of the Mos Espa landmark.

We observe the secular and exotic beauty of its white jilabas, yellowed by time. We wonder if, with a certain Japanese influence (from the kimonos) to the mix, they would not have illuminated the creation of several of the garments sui generis of Star Wars.

In the last days of this tour, we moved to the Mediterranean island of Djerba, the largest off North Africa, where Ulysses and his companions from the Odyssey are said to have landed. And that the last ones didn't want to leave anymore, delighted with that kind of floating oasis and its endless succulent fruits.

In Djerba, we let ourselves get lost in the alleys and bustling market of the capital Houmt Souk. Around us, we pass rural villages embellished by countless menzels, traditional houses, partly vaulted, surrounded by olive and palm trees, in the style of a Berber Alentejo hill.

While investigating this other stronghold in Tunisia, George Lucas and his team noticed – as we also noticed – the abundance of donkeys that the peasants and fishermen carried with a bit of everything.

Now, it was no coincidence that Tatooine's pack animal of choice was named jerba. As eccentric as they were useful, these creatures had long, shaggy fur. They provided milk, leather and its fur. They were created by the far more bizarre Pacithhips. And by Swilla Corey, a part-time pickpocketing, slave-born, blonde human.

In Djerba, we still peek at the building that gave rise to Obi-Wan Kenobi's retreat hut and others used in scenes set in Mos Eisley, a second spaceport that deserved Obi-Wan Kenobi's warning that Luke Skywalker “would never find a den most despicable of scum and villains”.

The real Djerba leaves in our minds a contrary image, of honesty, tranquility and harmony.

Restrained fans as we always were, by this time, we appreciated better than ever the perverse wealth of George Lucas' imagination.

We were well aware that Earth was one thing, Tatooine was another.

Chefchouen to Merzouga, Morocco

Morocco from Top to Bottom

From the aniseed alleys of Chefchaouen to the first dunes of the Sahara, Morocco reveals the sharp contrasts of the first African lands, as Iberia has always seen in this vast Maghreb kingdom.
Tataouine, Tunisia

Festival of the Ksour: Sand Castles That Don't Collapse

The ksour were built as fortifications by the Berbers of North Africa. They resisted Arab invasions and centuries of erosion. Every year, the Festival of the Ksour pays them the due homage.
Djerba, Tunisia

The Tunisian Island of Conviviality

The largest island in North Africa has long welcomed people who could not resist it. Over time, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs called it home. Today, Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities continue an unusual sharing of Djerba with its native Berbers.
Erriadh, Djerba, Tunisia

A Village Made Fleeting Art Gallery

In 2014, an ancient Djerbian settlement hosted 250 murals by 150 artists from 34 countries. The lime walls, the intense sun and the sand-laden winds of the Sahara erode the works of art. Erriadh's metamorphosis into Djerbahood is renewed and continues to dazzle.
Chebika, Tamerza, Mides, Tunisia

Where the Sahara sprouts from the Atlas Mountains

Arriving at the northwest edge of Chott el Jérid, the large salt lake reveals the northeast end of the Atlas mountain range. Its slopes and gorges hide waterfalls, winding streams of palm trees, abandoned villages and other unexpected mirages.
Ras R'mal, Djerba, Tunisia

The Island of the Flamingos that the Pirates Seized

Until some time ago, Ras R'mal was a large sandbar, home to a myriad of birds. Djerba's international popularity has made it the lair of an unusual tourist operation.
hippopotami, chobe national park, botswana
Chobe NP, Botswana

Chobe: A River on the Border of Life with Death

Chobe marks the divide between Botswana and three of its neighboring countries, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. But its capricious bed has a far more crucial function than this political delimitation.
Thorong Pedi to High Camp, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal, Lone Walker
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 12th - Thorong Phedi a High camp

The Prelude to the Supreme Crossing

This section of the Annapurna Circuit is only 1km away, but in less than two hours it takes you from 4450m to 4850m and to the entrance to the great canyon. Sleeping in High Camp is a test of resistance to Mountain Evil that not everyone passes.
Treasures, Las Vegas, Nevada, City of Sin and Forgiveness
Architecture & Design
Las Vegas, USA

Where sin is always forgiven

Projected from the Mojave Desert like a neon mirage, the North American capital of gaming and entertainment is experienced as a gamble in the dark. Lush and addictive, Vegas neither learns nor regrets.
Boats on ice, Hailuoto Island, Finland.
Hailuoto, Finland

A Refuge in the Gulf of Bothnia

During winter, the island of Hailuoto is connected to the rest of Finland by the country's longest ice road. Most of its 986 inhabitants esteem, above all, the distance that the island grants them.
Ceremonies and Festivities
Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

Naghol: Bungee Jumping without Modern Touches

At Pentecost, in their late teens, young people launch themselves from a tower with only lianas tied to their ankles. Bungee cords and harnesses are inappropriate fussiness from initiation to adulthood.
Nigatsu Temple, Nara, Japan
Nara, Japan

Buddhism vs Modernism: The Double Face of Nara

In the 74th century AD Nara was the Japanese capital. During XNUMX years of this period, emperors erected temples and shrines in honor of the Budismo, the newly arrived religion from across the Sea of ​​Japan. Today, only these same monuments, secular spirituality and deer-filled parks protect the city from the inexorable encirclement of urbanity.
Obese resident of Tupola Tapaau, a small island in Western Samoa.
Tonga, Western Samoa, Polynesia

XXL Pacific

For centuries, the natives of the Polynesian islands subsisted on land and sea. Until the intrusion of colonial powers and the subsequent introduction of fatty pieces of meat, fast food and sugary drinks have spawned a plague of diabetes and obesity. Today, while much of Tonga's national GDP, Western Samoa and neighbors is wasted on these “western poisons”, fishermen barely manage to sell their fish.
Peasant woman, Majuli, Assam, India
Majuli Island, India

An Island in Countdown

Majuli is the largest river island in India and would still be one of the largest on Earth were it not for the erosion of the river Bramaputra that has been making it diminish for centuries. If, as feared, it is submerged within twenty years, more than an island, a truly mystical cultural and landscape stronghold of the Subcontinent will disappear.

Man: an Ever Tested Species

It's in our genes. For the pleasure of participating, for titles, honor or money, competitions give meaning to the world. Some are more eccentric than others.
extraterrestrial mural, Wycliffe Wells, Australia
Wycliffe Wells, Australia

Wycliffe Wells' Unsecret Files

Locals, UFO experts and visitors have been witnessing sightings around Wycliffe Wells for decades. Here, Roswell has never been an example and every new phenomenon is communicated to the world.
Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, New Caledonia, Greater Calhau, South Pacific
Grande Terre, New Caledonia

South Pacific Great Boulder

James Cook thus named distant New Caledonia because it reminded him of his father's Scotland, whereas the French settlers were less romantic. Endowed with one of the largest nickel reserves in the world, they named Le Caillou the mother island of the archipelago. Not even its mining prevents it from being one of the most dazzling patches of Earth in Oceania.
sunlight photography, sun, lights
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Natural Light (Part 2)

One Sun, So Many Lights

Most travel photos are taken in sunlight. Sunlight and weather form a capricious interaction. Learn how to predict, detect and use at its best.
Mother Armenia Statue, Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan, Armenia

A Capital between East and West

Heiress of the Soviet civilization, aligned with the great Russia, Armenia allows itself to be seduced by the most democratic and sophisticated ways of Western Europe. In recent times, the two worlds have collided in the streets of your capital. From popular and political dispute, Yerevan will dictate the new course of the nation.
Porto Santo, view to the south of Pico Branco
Terra Chã and Pico Branco footpaths, Porto Santo

Pico Branco, Terra Chã and Other Whims of the Golden Island

In its northeast corner, Porto Santo is another thing. With its back facing south and its large beach, we unveil a mountainous, rugged and even wooded coastline, dotted with islets that dot an even bluer Atlantic.
Era Susi towed by dog, Oulanka, Finland
Winter White
PN Oulanka, Finland

A Slightly Lonesome Wolf

Jukka “Era-Susi” Nordman has created one of the largest packs of sled dogs in the world. He became one of Finland's most iconic characters but remains faithful to his nickname: Wilderness Wolf.
silhouette and poem, Cora coralina, Goias Velho, Brazil
Goiás Velho, Brazil

The Life and Work of a Marginal Writer

Born in Goiás, Ana Lins Bretas spent most of her life far from her castrating family and the city. Returning to its origins, it continued to portray the prejudiced mentality of the Brazilian countryside
Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge, Bahia
Gandoca-Manzanillo (Wildlife Refuge), Costa Rica

The Caribbean Hideaway of Gandoca-Manzanillo

At the bottom of its southeastern coast, on the outskirts of Panama, the “Tica” nation protects a patch of jungle, swamps and the Caribbean Sea. As well as a providential wildlife refuge, Gandoca-Manzanillo is a stunning tropical Eden.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
The Sounds, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Natural Parks
Fiordland, New Zealand

The Fjords of the Antipodes

A geological quirk made the Fiordland region the rawest and most imposing in New Zealand. Year after year, many thousands of visitors worship the sub-domain slashed between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
Traveler above Jökursarlón icy lagoon, Iceland
UNESCO World Heritage
Jökursarlón Lagoon, Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland

The Faltering of Europe's King Glacier

Only in Greenland and Antarctica are glaciers comparable to Vatnajökull, the supreme glacier of the old continent. And yet, even this colossus that gives more meaning to the term ice land is surrendering to the relentless siege of global warming.
now from above ladder, sorcerer of new zealand, Christchurch, new zealand
Christchurch, New Zealand

New Zealand's Cursed Wizard

Despite his notoriety in the antipodes, Ian Channell, the New Zealand sorcerer, failed to predict or prevent several earthquakes that struck Christchurch. At the age of 88, after 23 years of contract with the city, he made very controversial statements and ended up fired.
conversation at sunset
Boracay, Philippines

The Philippine Beach of All Dreams

It was revealed by Western backpackers and the film crew of “Thus Heroes are Born”. Hundreds of resorts and thousands of eastern vacationers followed, whiter than the chalky sand.
Balinese Hinduism, Lombok, Indonesia, Batu Bolong temple, Agung volcano in background
Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok: Balinese Hinduism on an Island of Islam

The foundation of Indonesia was based on the belief in one God. This ambiguous principle has always generated controversy between nationalists and Islamists, but in Lombok, the Balinese take freedom of worship to heart
Executives sleep subway seat, sleep, sleep, subway, train, Tokyo, Japan
On Rails
Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo's Hypno-Passengers

Japan is served by millions of executives slaughtered with infernal work rates and sparse vacations. Every minute of respite on the way to work or home serves them for their inemuri, napping in public.
Australia Day, Perth, Australian Flag
Perth, Australia

Australia Day: In Honor of the Foundation, Mourning for Invasion

26/1 is a controversial date in Australia. While British settlers celebrate it with barbecues and lots of beer, Aborigines celebrate the fact that they haven't been completely wiped out.
herd, foot-and-mouth disease, weak meat, colonia pellegrini, argentina
Daily life
Colónia Pellegrini, Argentina

When the Meat is Weak

The unmistakable flavor of Argentine beef is well known. But this wealth is more vulnerable than you think. The threat of foot-and-mouth disease, in particular, keeps authorities and growers afloat.
Flock of flamingos, Laguna Oviedo, Dominican Republic
Oviedo Lagoon, Dominican Republic

The (very alive) Dominican Republic Dead Sea

The hypersalinity of the Laguna de Oviedo fluctuates depending on evaporation and water supplied by rain and the flow coming from the neighboring mountain range of Bahoruco. The natives of the region estimate that, as a rule, it has three times the level of sea salt. There, we discover prolific colonies of flamingos and iguanas, among many other species that make up one of the most exuberant ecosystems on the island of Hispaniola.
Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Aeronautical Conquest of the Southern Alps

In 1955, pilot Harry Wigley created a system for taking off and landing on asphalt or snow. Since then, his company has unveiled, from the air, some of the greatest scenery in Oceania.