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.
savuti, botswana, elephant-eating lions
Savuti, Botswana

Savuti's Elephant-Eating Lions

A patch of the Kalahari Desert dries up or is irrigated depending on the region's tectonic whims. In Savuti, lions have become used to depending on themselves and prey on the largest animals in the savannah.
Mount Lamjung Kailas Himal, Nepal, altitude sickness, mountain prevent treat, travel
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 2nd - Chame to Upper BananaNepal

(I) Eminent Annapurnas

We woke up in Chame, still below 3000m. There we saw, for the first time, the snowy and highest peaks of the Himalayas. From there, we set off for another walk along the Annapurna Circuit through the foothills and slopes of the great mountain range. towards Upper Banana.
Alaskan Lumberjack Show Competition, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA
Architecture & Design
Ketchikan, Alaska

Here begins Alaska

The reality goes unnoticed in most of the world, but there are two Alaskas. In urban terms, the state is inaugurated in the south of its hidden frying pan handle, a strip of land separated from the contiguous USA along the west coast of Canada. Ketchikan, is the southernmost of Alaskan cities, its Rain Capital and the Salmon Capital of the World.
Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand
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.
Ceremonies and Festivities
Apia, Western Samoa

Fia Fia – High Rotation Polynesian Folklore

From New Zealand to Easter Island and from here to Hawaii, there are many variations of Polynesian dances. Fia Fia's Samoan nights, in particular, are enlivened by one of the more fast-paced styles.
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.
Singapore Asian Capital Food, Basmati Bismi

The Asian Food Capital

There were 4 ethnic groups in Singapore, each with its own culinary tradition. Added to this was the influence of thousands of immigrants and expatriates on an island with half the area of ​​London. It was the nation with the greatest gastronomic diversity in the Orient.
the projectionist
Sainte-Luce, Martinique

The Nostalgic Projectionist

From 1954 to 1983, Gérard Pierre screened many of the famous films arriving in Martinique. 30 years after the closing of the room in which he worked, it was still difficult for this nostalgic native to change his reel.
Swimming, Western Australia, Aussie Style, Sun rising in the eyes
Busselton, Australia

2000 meters in Aussie Style

In 1853, Busselton was equipped with one of the longest pontoons in the world. World. When the structure collapsed, the residents decided to turn the problem around. Since 1996 they have been doing it every year. Swimming.
Cambodia, Angkor, Ta Phrom
Ho Chi Minh a of Angkor, Cambodia

The Crooked Path to Angkor

From Vietnam onwards, Cambodia's crumbling roads and minefields take us back to the years of Khmer Rouge terror. We survive and are rewarded with the vision of the greatest religious temple
Barrancas del Cobre, Chihuahua, Rarámuri woman
Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon), Chihuahua, Mexico

The Deep Mexico of the Barrancas del Cobre

Without warning, the Chihuahua highlands give way to endless ravines. Sixty million geological years have furrowed them and made them inhospitable. The Rarámuri indigenous people continue to call them home.
View of Fa Island, Tonga, Last Polynesian Monarchy
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

Exotic Signs of Life

DMZ, South Korea, Line of no return
DMZ, Dora - South Korea

The Line of No Return

A nation and thousands of families were divided by the armistice in the Korean War. Today, as curious tourists visit the DMZ, many of the escapes of the oppressed North Koreans end in tragedy.
Gran Canaria, island, Canary Islands, Spain, La Tejeda
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Grand Canary Islands

It is only the third largest island in the archipelago. It so impressed European navigators and settlers that they got used to treating it as the supreme.
Maksim, Sami people, Inari, Finland-2
Winter White
Inari, Finland

The Guardians of Boreal Europe

Long discriminated against by Scandinavian, Finnish and Russian settlers, the Sami people regain their autonomy and pride themselves on their nationality.
Cove, Big Sur, California, United States
Big Sur, USA

The Coast of All Refuges

Over 150km, the Californian coast is subjected to a vastness of mountains, ocean and fog. In this epic setting, hundreds of tormented souls follow in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and Henri Miller.
Lake Sorvatsvagn, Vágar, Faroe Islands
Vágar, Faroe Islands

The Lake that hovers over the North Atlantic

By geological whim, Sorvagsvatn is much more than the largest lake in the Faroe Islands. Cliffs with between thirty to one hundred and forty meters limit the southern end of its bed. From certain perspectives, it gives the idea of ​​being suspended over the ocean.
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.
Amboseli National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Normatior Hill
Natural Parks
Amboseli National Park, Kenya

A Gift from the Kilimanjaro

The first European to venture into these Masai haunts was stunned by what he found. And even today, large herds of elephants and other herbivores roam the pastures irrigated by the snow of Africa's biggest mountain.
Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores, from historic capital to World Heritage, urban art
UNESCO World Heritage
Angra do Heroismo, Terceira (Azores), Azores

Heroina do Mar, from Noble People, Brave and Immortal City

Angra do Heroísmo is much more than the historic capital of the Azores, Terceira Island and, on two occasions, Portugal. 1500km from the mainland, it gained a leading role in Portuguese nationality and independence that few other cities can boast.
View from the top of Mount Vaea and the tomb, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa
Upolu, Samoa

Stevenson's Treasure Island

At age 30, the Scottish writer began looking for a place to save him from his cursed body. In Upolu and the Samoans, he found a welcoming refuge to which he gave his heart and soul.
Magnificent Atlantic Days
Morro de São Paulo, Brazil

A Divine Seaside of Bahia

Three decades ago, it was just a remote and humble fishing village. Until some post-hippie communities revealed the Morro's retreat to the world and promoted it to a kind of bathing sanctuary.
Annapurna Circuit: 5th- Ngawal-BragaNepal

Towards the Nepalese Braga

We spent another morning of glorious weather discovering Ngawal. There is a short journey towards Manang, the main town on the way to the zenith of the Annapurna circuit. We stayed for Braga (Braka). The hamlet would soon prove to be one of its most unforgettable places.
Back in the sun. San Francisco Cable Cars, Life Ups and Downs
On Rails
San Francisco, USA

San Francisco Cable Cars: A Life of Highs and Lows

A macabre wagon accident inspired the San Francisco cable car saga. Today, these relics work as a charm operation in the city of fog, but they also have their risks.
Police intervention, ultra-Orthodox Jews, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel
Jaffa, Israel

Unorthodox protests

A building in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, threatened to desecrate what ultra-Orthodox Jews thought were remnants of their ancestors. And even the revelation that they were pagan tombs did not deter them from the contestation.
Ditching, Alaska Fashion Life, Talkeetna
Daily life
Talkeetna, Alaska

Talkeetna's Alaska-Style Life

Once a mere mining outpost, Talkeetna rejuvenated in 1950 to serve Mt. McKinley climbers. The town is by far the most alternative and most captivating town between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Newborn turtle, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica
PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

A Night at the Nursery of Tortuguero

The name of the Tortuguero region has an obvious and ancient reason. Turtles from the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea have long flocked to the black sand beaches of its narrow coastline to spawn. On one of the nights we spent in Tortuguero we watched their frenzied births.
Bungee jumping, Queenstown, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, the Queen of Extreme Sports

In the century. XVIII, the Kiwi government proclaimed a mining village on the South Island "fit for a queen".Today's extreme scenery and activities reinforce the majestic status of ever-challenging Queenstown.