Disclaimer: I’ve never seen a Star Wars movie in my life. I don’t know the difference between that and Star Trek. Fantasy and Scifi are among the few film genres I don’t particularly enjoy. I walked out of the first Lord of the Rings thirty minutes in, and I would rather read the memoir of Sarah Palin than any given Harry Potter book.
However, the Star Wars sightseeing in Tunisia is thoroughly enjoyable even for someone like me. Most of the “film sets” are old Berber buildings – strange-looking structures designed to keep grains intact, or people comfortable, in the scorching desert heat, before there was electricity. They are worth seeing with or without the Star Wars brand.
All of these locations are in the reach of the independent traveler. Tunisia is well-connected by buses and louages (minivans, smaller and faster), and hiring private cars at the destinations won’t break the bank.
First stop: TATAOUINE, in the Southeast. In Arabic it’s spelled t-T-w-i-n, so one of the transliteration options is Tatooine. (Yes, Tatooine actually exists on the map, in the Tunisian Sahara.) Once there, hire a taxi for the day, to get into the surrounding abandoned Berber villages. Among them you will find Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Hedada (also spelled Hadada) – both were used as slave quarters in Star Wars: the Phantom Menace.
Move onto the nearby town of MATMATA. See Hotel Sidi Driss, its interior was used as Luke Skywalker’s home. It is an old troglodyte dwelling, basically a hole in the ground, later converted into a functioning hotel. Go on, have a sleepover at Luke’s.
Then, travel to TOZEUR in the Southwest of the country. Once there, hire a 4WD through a local travel agent to get to Ong Jamel. That is a rock formation in the desert, also seen in the movies. The town of Mos Espa lies nearby. This site is an artificial one: a movie set built into the desert, and left there after the filming ended. Sand dunes are moving in and covering the set more and more each year, so the best time to visit is right now.
Between Tozeur and KABILY lies Chott el Jerid, a giant salt lake. This was the location of Lars Homestead, Luke’s house was supposedly here. An enormous white surface, it really looks like another planet.
There are many amazing things to see in these areas, each town invites thorough exploration. Going to these places is in no way overlooking the real Tunisia. The Star Wars attractions only work to enhance what is already there – a beautiful country and people, who will warmly welcome you. Have fun and may the force be with you, like the hobbits say.