A long time ago, in a galaxy far away -- aka the '70s -- George Lucas changed movies forever with the release of the first installment of the 'Star Wars' trilogy: 'A New Hope.' Fans were taken in by the adventure of young Luke Skywalker, plucked from his simple life to become the Jedi Knight who will save the universe.

Before his adventure begins, Skywalker lives with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru Lars, moisture farmers on the planet Tatooine. After unwittingly buying renegade droids C3PO and R2D2, Owen and Beru are killed by Stormtroopers, prompting Luke to leave the planet for good.

Luke may have abandoned his homestead, but you can still visit the Skywalker home. Lucas shot these first groundbreaking scenes at the famous Hotel Sidi Driss, located in the village of Matmata, in the country of Tunisia.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away -- aka the '70s -- George Lucas changed movies forever with the release of the first installment of the 'Star Wars' trilogy: 'A New Hope.' Fans were taken in by the adventure of young Luke Skywalker, plucked from his simple life to become the Jedi Knight who will save the universe.

Before his adventure begins, Skywalker lives with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru Lars, moisture farmers on the planet Tatooine. After unwittingly buying renegade droids C3PO and R2D2, Owen and Beru are killed by Stormtroopers, prompting Luke to leave the planet for good.

Luke may have abandoned his homestead, but you can still visit the Skywalker home. Lucas shot these first groundbreaking scenes at the famous Hotel Sidi Driss, located in the village of Matmata, in the country of Tunisia.

Location as Character: When creating 'Star Wars,' George Lucas wanted to abandon the sleek look of most science fiction, instead creating an aged, shared universe. The production flew to Tunisia, and filming commenced on March 22, 1976. Tunisia's arid climate served as the perfect earth-bound recreation of the desert world Tatooine.

The hotel's storage room served as the location for the Lars family dining room. In 1995, a French 'Star Wars' fan by the name of Phillip Vanni helped renovate and remodel the storage room into a 'Star Wars'-themed restaurant and bar that accurately mimics the room where young Skywalker would eat dinner.

Lucas returned to the hotel in 2000 to film scenes for 'Attack of the Clones.' The Tatooine set decorations were rebuilt and remain on site as part of the hotel's decor.

Historical Significance: The hotel was built centuries ago by the indigenous Berber people of North Africa. Refugees would dig detailed cave locations to hide away and defend themselves from attackers. The village of Matmata became famous for its cave dwellings, and future generations re-established the cave networks as their homes; the traditional living quarters provide cool relief from the Tunisian climate.

It wasn't until 1967 that Matmata became more widely known after it received emergency support from surrounding cities, following a devastating rain season. New, above-ground residencies were built, but many of the classic cave dwellings were repaired and still serve as the primary housing facility.

The hotel consists of five pits; the first four pits contain 20 bedrooms. The rooms themselves are made from individual hollowed-out caves, connected by shared bathroom facilities. The fifth pit is the 'Star Wars'-themed restaurant and bar. The hotel is lined with Berber bedding and culture, and still contain many of the cave's intricate designs for storage and food preparation, built right into the walls.

Behind the hotel is a small museum of Matmata's local history. Additionally, the hotel can arrange for guests to take walking tours of the surrounding residential cave dwellings.


Directions: The village of Matmata is reachable by a shared taxi service or bus that run daily from Gabes, the capital city of the Gabes Governate, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Be sure to specify that you are traveling to Matmata Ancienne, as some services will stop at the nearby Matmata Nouvelle. Matmata is the most famous tourist site in the entire province because it is one of the few remaining communities in the world to maintain its ancient form.

To reach the hotel by car, there is a sealed road from Gabes that travels 45 miles inland to the southwest. Additionally, there is a bus line running to the city of Tunis via Sfax and Sousse.

Visitor's Info: The hotel is open year-round, and reservations are encouraged during the spring/summer seasons. Best of all, it costs $10 a night to stay at the Hotel Sidi Driss -- including breakfast.

If you're planning a visit, please contact the Tunisian Tourist Office, located at the Washington D.C. Embassy of Tunisia. For more information, check out TourismTunisia.com or TunisiaGuide.com


TAGS Star Wars
CATEGORIES On the Scene