Jakku – Rub’ al Khali, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Jakku, the desert world in the Western reaches, the planet which at the start of The Force Awakens is home to Rey. The closest thing it has to a city is Niima Outpost, where most of the opening action takes place.
The first day of principal photography kicked off on May 17th 2014 on location in the desert and the cast and crew filmed in Abu Dhabi for about a week and a half shooting the First Order’s attack on Niima Outpost before moving to Al Qasr’s orange sand dunes for the Tie Fighter crash site and Rey’s home / downed AT-AT.
The Rub’ al Khali (Arabic: الربع الخالي ar-Rubʿ al-Ḫālī “Empty Quarter”) is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometres (250,000 sq mi) (the area between long. 44°30′−56°30′E, and lat. 16°30′−23°00′N) including parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Wikipedia.
Arti Shah – Maz Motion capture double and Jakku extra.
Star Wars The Force Awakens actress Arti Shah spoke with Star Wars places and gave a little bit of info on filming in the Abu Dhabi deserts:
Arti Shah – “We all stayed at different hotels in Abu Dhabi as there were so many of us and some of the crew were involved in prep, so they were there some time before me. As you may or may not know, I take issue with spiders. And I’d read somewhere or one of the crew told me that there are desert spiders, so you can imagine my trepidation. Luckily, I was spared. Phew! We shot in 2 deserts.
I remember the Niima Outpost being the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The sunset made it all the more breathtaking. I’ll never forget it.
My Maz Kanata scenes were shot sometime after Abu Dhabi and all took place here in England at Pinewood as apposed to Imaginarium. Hopefully someday I’ll get to visit Imaginarium as well”.