Tatooine – Tunisia & California, USA
Probably the most famous location for Star Wars, A New Hope. The deserts of Tatooine were filmed he in 1976. This is where we first see Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi, R2-D2 and C-3PO. The dry desert landscapes gave a great vastness to this space fantasy in 1977 which made it an instant hit.
Tunisia was returned to for The Phantom Menace after many years again Lucasfilm and JAK productions used the countries weird landscape to create different worlds in galaxy’s far far away.
Tataouine is a city and district located in southern Tunisia (Latitude: 32° 55′ 60N – Longitude: 10° 26′ 60E; altitude: 246 meters; time zone: UTC+1). It is one of Tunisia’s 24 governates.
Whilst out in Tunisia we spoted many things that were used in the film, not directly but in passing. Many of the locals all wore head to toe robes with hoods in a dark brown colour, very similar to a Jedi robe. The main use has to be the slightly different spelling of this Tunisian city for what I consider to be the main planet of the Star Wars films.
We only drove through Tataouine on our way to the Ksars of Mednine but I did manage to get a shot out of the window of our 4×4.
Were C-3PO and R2-D2 bicker about which direction to head, the droids split and 3PO heads in a less rocky direction (in Tunisia) right past the Krayt dragon, R2 heads off left and this shot from behind is actually on Mesquite Flat Sands Dunes about 22.7m North from Furnace Creek along the 190 Just before Stovepipe Wells, USA.
The shot looks North and is roughly 200m from the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes parking lot. In the distance you can see the rocky terrain.
Lar’s Homestead Ext. – Chott el-Djerid, Tunisia.
Chott El Jerid is part of the vast dry salt lake flats that cover 5,000 sq km on the West side of central/southern Tunisia near the Algerian boarder.
The Chott is accessed by the causeway from Kebili to Tozeur, which was built by the Tunisian army. There are many souvenir stands selling the desert roses which have been coloured.
March 22, 1976 – The first day of principal photography in Tozeur, Tunisia for Star Wars. A crew of 130 ventures into the desert in 42 trucks and cars, including eight army trucks full of equipment. The first shot was completed at 9:35 a.m.
Out here in the middle of nowhere on the dry lake bed salt flats the scenes of the Lars family homestead took place.
The actual location for the Lars Homestead “igloo” is south west of Tozeur heading on road 57 toward Algeria. Whilst Sarah and I were on our 2 day organised safari with a group of others I felt as we were so close to the location and yet not scheduled to go there I would try to pursued our guide to “drop-by” there if we had time!
Well the afternoon was soon on us on our first day and we had just gone north out of Tozeur to the Oasis’s of Tamerza and Chibika. The waterfalls and streams were lovely but I wanted to be elsewhere, I kept my eyes peeled along the P16 road as we traveled passed Chott el-Gharsa, but no signs I could see of TPM site.
As light started to go the convoy of 3 4×4’s made its way back to Tozeur and our overnight hotel. As we pulled up and got out of the trucks, the guide rushed over and said he had persuaded a guide and a driver to take us out and get us to the location; we must first put our stuff in our room and be back to the trucks ASAP.
Our driver knew a little English and had heard of the location and so headed off. In my best French/Arabic I tried to give some directions to where I thought we were going. Directions I got from the internet stated travel out a couple of miles towards Nefta until you see a police stop on the left side and then take a left onto the salt flats. On the opposite side of the road to the right is “The Grand Dune” the place where C-3PO is lost and taken in by the Jawa’s in ANH.
Lucky we had a 4×4 the tracks of previous vehicles had caused some major ruts and we were being thrown about. We had been on the salt/sand for about 2-3 minutes before; in the distance we could see something. The igloo came into focus – what a site to see! The garage roof had gone either fans looking for a piece of set or the weather but the main dome was there next to the crater.
It was amazing to see how film slight of hand can put two completely separate places together; the “igloo” at Nefta and the homestead pit in Matmata are some 60km apart. Thanks to digital work for AOTC there is a scene were the two are seamlessly joined.
We got back to the hotel just as the stars came out to join the others. The next day meant an early start as we were heading back to Djerba with a stop off for lunch in Matmata!
Lar’s Homestead Int. – Hotel Sidi Driss, Matmata, Tunisia.
The Hotel is actually made up of 5 underground pits linked by numerous passageways. The entrance from the main road / coach park was innocuous enough, as you head down into the working of the hotel it is relatively hard to work out what direction to the “Lars” courtyard. At the Hotels reception desk there is a map and evidence of the Star Wars bandwagon that blew through town in March 1976 for ANH and in September 2000 for AOTC.
Painters and chargehand preparing the Hotel Sidi Driss for filming back in 1976.
“Star Wars Canyon”, Tatooine – Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia.
Not easily found on a map of Tunisia is the small village of Bouhlel.
It is situated a bit northwest of Tozeur, on the rim of the Chott El Jerrid (salt desert) just before the GP16 road turns to the West. The marabout of Sidi Bouhlel (sidi = lord) can be found atop a cliff that is beautifully carved into the surface. This canyon was used in 1976 for no less than 9 shots ! Hence it has become known as Star Wars Canyon. Also the canyon was used in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy threatens to blow up the Ark.
The valley of Sidi Bouhlel is in two parts; a narrow gorge walled by two hundred foot high cliffs and a wide, flat wadi that runs from the Jebel Krefane down to the chott.
Although I never got to venture down the canyon in 2004 I am sure I will get another chance in the future.
“Bantha Canyon”, Tatooine – Death Valley
Many pick up shots of Luke in his land speeder were to be filmed here and also whilst waiting for Mark Hamill’s double to arrive filmed Mardji the African elephant from Marine World who was costumed as a bantha.
(Mark Hamill had been involved in a car accident)
Because of running over budget Lucas use the barren desert land of Death Valley, California to fill in the filming gaps of Tunisia.
Many scenes combined shots from both Tunisia and Death Valley, R2’s singular journey to the hands of the Jawa’s was also filmed in the Death Valley at various locations.
Artists Palette, off Artists Drive, Death Valley, just at the entrance of the valley take the left path, looking West and you will see where the lost and “frightened” R2 was filmed.
When R2 is captured by the Jawa’s he is “zapped” in Tunisia but by the magic of movies once again taken to the sandcrawler which is actually just off Artists Drive, Badwater Road. Approx. 300m before the right turn into Artists Palette (parking area) looking back South Easterly.
After Luke’s encounter with the Tusken Raiders, there is a still shot of some rocks. This is the entrance to Golden Canyon trailhead off the Badwater Road looking due East.
Ben’s Home – Isle de Djerba, Tunisia
Ajim – is located on the southwest corner of the island of Djerba, which is just off Tunisia’s mainland west coast.
Sarah and I went to Tunisia in February 2004. We stayed on the Island of Djerba as I knew that there were three SW locations on the island itself and most of the mainland locations were in the mid to south of the country away from the major tourist resorts of the north.
After the initial meet and great by the rep who informed us of the optional excursions available, Sarah and I planned our weeks stay to try and see as much as possible.
Monday, book a taxi from reception and try to see the three locations on the island. The driver arrived, an elderly Arabic man who spoke no English showed us to his car an old yellow Fiat which had already seen better days! (If he only knew what was to come). With my very limited grasp of French (Tunisia’s second language) I proceeded to instruct the driver on our expedition and negotiate a price. Once agreed it was off to the ferry port.
The drive from our hotel took about half an hour, when we got to Ajim the driver could not understand my instructions and so we wasted time just driving around back streets with him not willing to pull over and stop. Frustrated I asked him to take the road along the coast to Sidi Jemour.
The Corniche – the turning is located on the left just before you enter the town from the ferry port. When I said road I meant track and when I say track I mean uneven pot-holed dirt trail. Soon we were going along at under 10 mph and bouncing up and down due to the cars suspension. Luckily this was only for two and a half miles as the site of Ben Kenobi’s home used in the original releases of ANH came into view.
With nothing around to obstruct our view I got slightly excited at seeing this old run down fishing shack on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea (not the Dune Sea). With the taxi stopped and the driver taking a cigarette break I managed to persuade Sarah to get a few shots of me and the surroundings.
Mos Eisley approach, Tatooine – Dante’s View, Death Valley.
The view to Mos Eisley is from Dante’s View which is a high summit East of Badwater, near the edge of the Black Mountains. The actual spaceport is not really there it was a matte painting added later. Actors Alec Guiness and Mark Hamill were filmed in Tunisia but their point of view is northwards along the Valley, only some 7,000 miles separate the shots
Take Furnace Creek Wash Rd off the 190, heading South for approx 7.5m. Then the road turns into Dantes View Rd, go for another 6m until you got the Dante’s View parking lot.
Mos Eisley approach / Toche Station, Tatooine – Sidi Jmour, Djerba, Tunisia
Sidi Jemour – The marabout was used for the Anchorhead / Toshi Station scenes for ANH.
Approximately eight miles from the corniche or eleven from Ajim along the dirt trail. This large white washed building stood out against the blue sky surrounding it and was clearly visible from a couple of miles.
Also shot here but famously deleted from the finished film were the scenes with Luke and his “friends” and most importantly Biggs Darklighter. The edited shoots can be viewed on the CD-ROM Behind the Magic.
Toche Station – deleted scene – (YouTube video)
Now the taxi driver looked bored and ready to leave us so I said my goodbyes to the place and we headed northeast to pick up the main road to take us back to the Hotel.
Star Wars Cantina, Mos Eisley – Ajim, Isle De Djerba, Tunisia.
From the port travel along the main road into “town”, not too far from the main road you will find the dome of the building used for the infamous cantina which is in the residential area on Avenue Aboul Kacem Chebi.
Although the entrance was a façade the dome and walls are still visible.
For further information on the Death Valley locations please view these websites:
Steve Hall’s Death Valley Adventures - http://www.panamintcity.com/exclusives/starwars.html
Star Wars Road Trips – http://starwarsroadtrips.com/