Ever dreamt of following in the footsteps of a Jedi? Have you ever thought it would be nice to have a drink in the Mos Eisley cantina? How about a sleepover in Luke Skywalker’s homestead on Tatooine? All this is possible!
Many Star Wars fans will be aware that many of the scenes from Star Wars (especially Episode IV - A New Hope) were filmed in Tunisia. What fans may not be aware of is that many of these sites are easy to visit and that Tunisia has many other things to offer the visitor, at very reasonable prices.
After the excitement of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has returned to relative normality and tourists are beginning to flock back. Most visitors head to the sunny beaches that abound on the coast in places like Sousse and La Marsa, or explore the rich history on show in Carthage or El Djem. But for Star Wars fans it is the call of the desert in the south that draws them to this compact North African country.
The primary destination for Star Wars tourists is Matmata. Matmata is a Berber town hidden away in the desert hills south of Gabes. The town is full of striking subterranean buidings, so-called 'Troglodyte' dwellings, which can be explored, or even stayed in, as many have been converted into hotels.
It is possible to see Matmata in just a couple of hours. It is a small settlement and, if you just want to see the Star Wars set, then the main attraction is the Hotel Sidi Dris. This was used for filming of both the Lar's homestead (the house of Luke Skywalker's uncle and aunt) and also the Mos Eisley cantina scenes.
Luke Skywalker's Home
Hotel Sidi Dris, Matmata
But, a fleeting visit would mean missing the broader allure of Matmata and staying overnight in the desert is a magical experience. Watch the sunset from the surrounding hills and then stay in one of the underground hotels. The Hotel Mahala is an excellent option, a real gem, and although basic (as with all the local hotels) it does boast friendly staff and is very well kept. It is also cheap and for around 20D (about $15) you can get dinner, bed and breakfast.
The rooms are rustic, white-washed alcoves, with traditional doors and little furnishing. There are no windows but the rustic nature of the rooms is the key to their charm. The food is also very good and a cold drink from the bar is very welcome after a day in the heat of the desert.
Most people get to Matmata via flights into the north of the country. There are regular international flights into Tunisia, most of them arriving at airport just outside the capital, Tunis. The majority of flights go via European destinations; with British Airways, Alitalia, Lufthansa and Tunisia Airlines being among the carriers who have regular flights at reasonable costs.
Once in Tunisia, to get to Matmata, you can use local public transport, get a hire car or join a coach trip. Organised coach tours are the most popular option and these are available on a frequent basis from hotels in the north of the country or specialist tour companies. Some businesses run specific Star Wars tours and can take you to other less known and more remote filming sites such as Chott El-Gharsa (Mos Espa) and Tataouine (the inspiration for name Tatooine).
You can find out the latest information, local news, and deals from sites such as Tunisia.com, Tunisia-Live, and Tourism Tunisia.