In the Footsteps of the Skywalkers

I was expecting the most of Tunisia, I thought it was going to be a somewhat of a developed country that it was sort of like a mini-France, because it was under French control until not too long ago. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. It turned out to be more like a mini-India, apart from the Hinduism, the cows, the human feces, and the amount of trash everywhere ( there is trash everywhere but not near as much as India). It’s a small nice country, but unfortunately it didn’t meet my expectations until we reached the STAR WARS sets. We were actually going to the set that the first STAR WARS was filmed on, somewhere I only dreamed of going, the planet of Tatooine.

Our STAR WARS tour started in Tunis though we didn’t know it at the time. We saw a funny building that looked upside down. It turned out to be a hotel, but I thought it was more than a building. I knew I had seen it somewhere before, but where could it have been? Maybe the news, or even a movie, but what movie? Then I realized it was the fourth episode of STAR WARS. It looked just like the Jawas’ giant ship that Luke buys C-3PO and R2-D2 off of. The hotel is what inspired George to make the ship in that strange design. We found this out by reading the website www.toysrgus.com that has a section that shows everywhere the Star Wars movies were filmed.

We left Tunis on one of the public transport louages to get to Hammamet where we would redeem dad’s SPG points for some free nights at the Sheraton Hammamet Beach Resort. It was a low level Sheraton, so the rooms weren’t too great, but it sure beat hostels. But because this is a STAR WARS post, not a beach resort post I’ll skip through here and go straight to Tozeur, which we took an 8 hour train to get to from Hamamet. Tozeur is one of the closest cities to the STAR WARS set. It is a small town built by a 10 square kilometer oasis full of palm trees, pomegranate trees, and banana trees, which have an unusual flower that none of us knew about. When the season comes, the bananas emerge out of the flower. It’s from here that we set out in a jeep to the set that served as the small town of Mos Espa, Tatooine. This was a going to be one of the big highlights of the trip for me. I knew it. Just like the Hobbiton was in New Zealand.

We arrived in Tozeur at about 7pm and walked about 500 or more meters (LOL!!! Now instead of miles and feet coming to mind when I think of distances, meters and kilometers come to mind, I just realized that). We went to the nicest hotel in the city first but it was too expensive. It was almost dark so we just went to the closest cheap one, which was a big dive, but to make it seem better we did what we always did in dives to make them seem better, watch our family movie that we love so much, “She’s the Man.” The next day we decided to move to a hotel like 300 meters (there I go in meters again, just know that it’s 3.2 feet to the meter) which for a little more was a little better. Then about an half an hour to an hour after we got settled in our new hotel we got in a horse cart and rode into the oasis. Our driver was a nice man and let me Kieran and Asher in the front with him. He also hopped off and let us steer Sabrina the horse when we got to slow roads. He took us to a farm where he showed us all the fruit trees (that’s where we saw the banana flower) and to an old medina where people still lived. We rode around on Sabrina for an hour and then went back to the hotel where a jeep was supposed to pick us up.


Sabrina the horse pulling us through the Oasis

We hired a jeep with 4×4 from the hotel to go out to ‘Mos Espa’ that was scheduled to come at 2 pm. We only got an hour on Sabrina because we were supposed to go back for about 30 minutes before the jeep came. If we would’ve known that we would still be waiting at 3 o’clock, then we probably would’ve fit in the Chak Wak museum that is all about ancient life, Kieran was devastated the most about this, because he really liked the flyer for it and thought it would be fun to go to. At about 3:10 a new guy came to the desk and instead of telling us every 2 minutes that it would be 5 more minutes until the jeep arrived, he told us that it would be better if we went at 4 o’clock since it wouldn’t be so hot then (it’s in the desert). My Mom and Dad were mad the we wasted that much time in the lobby, but Dax, Kieran, Asher, and I weren’t too sad because while we were in the lobby we were making comics. (It’s a newfound hobby for Dax and me. We like to make funny little comics for the little kids.) So we went up to our room and waited for the reception to call and tell us that the jeep was there.

The kids writing comics

They called our room when the jeep arrived and we all hurried down the stairs to get in. Since we were going into the desert, we brought lots of water. We thought that the jeep would at least have AC, but it didn’t. It was pretty hot in the car, so we rolled down all the windows. That cooled us down a little but it also let a lot of dust in the car. It was about 40 kilometers to the STAR WARS site and most of that was on sand roads, so it took a while to get there. The driver also went over ledges and things that weren’t part of the road for our entertainment. Every time he went over a bump everyone would fly off their seat and bump into each other because the car was so cramped. There were 8 people in there and I don’t know what one of them’s job was. There was the driver and some other guy that was up with him that wasn’t a tourist. I think he was supposed to be our guide but he didn’t speak very much English. The rest of us were cramped in the back two rows.

The drive there was pretty amazing. There was a paved road the first 10 or so kilometers but the rest was all sand and dirt road. There were these crystals everywhere that glittered and sparkled in the sun, so we we made sure that we stopped and picked some up. We also made a quick stop at Camel Rock, which was a big rock that was in the shape of a camel, hence the name camel rock. Near Camel Rock there was a little shop that sold desert roses like every other shop in southern Tunisia. They’re crystallized water and sand that make strange shapes with lots of semi-circles sticking out.

4 wheeling in Tunisia

When we left Camel Rock we entered an area that instead of mud hills had sand dunes. To get to the dunes we had to drive down one more big ledge and ride on one more wall. It seemed like it almost tipped the jeep over over one of the dunes. I could see something that looked like STAR WARS, so I asked the guide or whatever he was, “STAR WARS?” He replied, “No STAR WARS. STAR WARS dere.” He pointed just over the dune right ahead of us. I got really excited, I was actually going to walk around the set where they filmed STAR WARS. We had already driven through the area where they did the pod racing. In the bumpy car I actually felt like I was in the pod race. We took the dune head on, but unfortunately our car wasn’t as strong as the car ahead of us, so it couldn’t move when we were almost to the top. The driver had to reverse back down the dune and go around some of it. He found a part that wasn’t as high and put the pedal to the metal. We made it to the top of the dune, and when I looked through the windshield I could see Mos Espa! There it was–the real set that they filmed STAR WARS in!

Arriving at Star Wars set

The jeep that made it up before us was stopped and all the people from the car were out taking pictures. But we decided that it was too windy for Dad’s camera because sand would get in it, the same with the little kids’ eyes. We drove down the other side of the dune very carefully, especially at the bottom. “Nice and easy, nice and easy,” I was thinking to myself, because if we went too fast we would get stuck in the sand. Luckily we made it down safely and about 40 meters ahead was the set. There it was, right in front of me. Now I was about to burst with excitement. Right when we stepped out of the car we were swarmed with children and old men alike, all trying to sell us things. None of us can stand this. We know they’re just trying to make a living, but they are so pushy! If they are selling a hat, they say, “Free gift, free gift!” and put the hat on our head. When you say thank you and walk away, they get mad and ask for money. But we have had that all over the world and learned how to respond. You can push the “gift” away and then walk or run away. If they drop the “gift” in your arms, you can pull them up so it falls (if it’s not breakable) or just put it on the ground and walk away. When we finally made it through the salespeople to the set, Kieran and I darted off to see everything.

I can't believe I am in Tatooine

Everything was pretty beat up, but there it was! Just like it was just like in the movie! There were the pillars, the doors, and everything else! Because everything was beat up and the paint worn away, you find out what they made everything out of. The weird AC doorbell-like things outside the house are just taken apart computers. The houses were made out of a little bit of plywood, stucco, and chicken wire. The pillar electronic things out in the open are just made out of wood, and the inside of the doorways that have all the little rectangles on them are made out of foam. Kieran and I wandered around pretty much every part of it, going in almost every house, touching everything on the way. In one house the back wall fell so broken stucco was everywhere. Kieran and I snagged four small pieces of stucco from the sand and went on to another house. While we were in one of the houses, we heard Dad yelling at us to get in the car so we ran back trying not to get sand in our eyes from all the wind. Dad told us that we had to leave even though we still hadn’t seen everything. Kieran started to cry because we missed the back and the left side, and he still wanted to see it, but Dad couldn’t stand all the old men and children following him and by now the wind was really strong so sand was blowing everywhere.

Family at Tatouine

Our ‘guide’ told us that we could have 10 more minutes to see the rest, so dad took us out for like three and came back. In that time we were able to see the back part of the set and find a small desert rose in one of the huts. When we got back Kieran was still about to cry because he didn’t see the left half. I was pretty upset too, so Mom took us because the kids and old men bothered Dad more than anyone else. We made it over to the left half where there were three jeeps of tourist walking around. We managed to squeeze into the rest of the huts which were all very cool (cool and a cool temperature too). One had some charcoal in it and there was hundreds of names on the wall. Kieran and I decided to write our namesup there too, so now our names are up there for us if we come back. There was one really creepy guy that followed us into the hut with the names and kept trying to put a hat on Kieran’s head. This guy creeped Mom out a lot so she told us to leave. When I tried to leave the man blocked the door so I couldn’t leave, then he put a hat on my head (my head has itched ever since). I threw the hat back at him and as he was catching the hat I ran out the door and caught up to Mom. I looked behind and he was still following us, so we started to walk faster. Finally he gave up on us and went for some French tourist. As we were walking by one of the pillars to get to the jeep, I kicked something metal and it flew up. I bent down to pick it up and it turned out to be a screw off of the pillar. I put in my pocket for a keepsake, Kieran also find a keepsake, larger than mine though. It’s a block of wood that came off one of the houses or a pillar. We had seen it all and had our keepsakes in our pockets, so we hopped in the car and drove on a bumpy road to a small town named Nefta. It was right by the oasis, and we went to a ledge where there were palm trees for miles (or kilometers). After Nefta we were all pretty tired so we went back to the hotel.

The next day we took a louage to Matmata, the place where they filmed the Lars residence. The road there was amazing. There were these salt flats that looked like oceans. It was so white that this abandoned bus in the distance looked like it was floating. We got to Matmata around noon and found a hotel to stay in about 2 hours later. We hiked down a hill down from the louage station to get down to an empty tourist information and from there Dax and Mom scoped out some other hotels. We decided that we were definitely going to stay in a cave hotel, but we didn’t know which one. They both weren’t very clean, but one was cleaner than the other. The less clean one was the one where they filmed STAR WARS. After Mom and Dax got back, Dad, Kieran, Asher and I went to look at both of them. Mom chose to let me and Kieran decide where to stay because we cared about staying in the STAR WARS hotel. Dad, Kieran, Asher and I all agreed on the STAR WARS cave because it had an outlet, which the other didn’t, and it had the place where they filmed STAR WARS, which of course the other didn’t. Even though it was kind of dirty, we managed to sleep in our sleep sacks even with the brown and yellow stains on the sheets and pillow covers alike. I thought that it was worth it because we were actually in Luke Skywalker’s house. Right outside our beat up broken door and 50 feet down the hall was the big center room of the house. Even though I didn’t like the dinner or the breakfast there, I think it was truly worth it because now every time I watch STAR WARS episode 4 I can say, “Hey I’ve been there!”

McKane showing off his star wars kid impressionTom making a "victor" sign at Luke's house

If you aren’t in Tunisia you can also get good replica’s at this website www.masterreplicas.com

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4 thoughts on “In the Footsteps of the Skywalkers

  1. Wow! that must have been cool checking out the sets. back in the 2nd grade i had a neighbor with a betamax version of the original star wars movie; we watched it everyday after school for months; i think we memorized every line in the movie; i would have been pretty stoked to see the sets in real life.

    p.s. you should have given me a call, i could have fed you a few lines to get the touts off your back… remember the Jedi mind trick, “These are not the droids you are looking for” just substitute “rich foreign tourists” for “droids” and the hat guy would have been under your control

  2. Wow!!! Amazing!! May the Force be With You!!

    There is no emotion; there is peace.
    There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
    There is no passion; there is serenity.
    There is no death; there is the Force.

  3. Sounds like Kieran enjoyed the set more than anyone. Did he get to keep the chunk of wood? I’m sure that will fit nicely in his suitcase. ha!

  4. Wow when you called and said I’m going to a star wars place I was like yeah right but now I belive you

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