Dec
26
2009

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Star Wars @ Sidi Driss Hotel

by Tyler

My younger brother Gabe is obsessed with Star Wars. George Lucas visited Tunisia before filming the original series and much of the culture and architecture found in the movies was inspired by what he saw. In fact, many parts of the epic series, namely those taking place on Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine (ringing any bells?), were actually filmed right here in Tunisia! I've been excited to send home photos for him ever since we arrived.

Matmata Road Signs

Today was our first Star Wars-related visit: Matmata. Matmata is famous for its troglodyte homes, one of which being the Sidi Driss hotel. Star Wars fans know it as the home of Luke Skywalker's aunt and uncle. The Sidi Driss went back to being a hotel after filming was completed and they shrewdly kept much of the set intact. Beyond this attraction, to which tourists come from around the world, Matamata is more or less a tiny, mostly empty, desert town.

Matmata Matmata Cave Home

There is a museum exhibiting the same folksy items we saw yesterday in Medenine, but other than that, there isn't really anything to "do" except see the underground homes.

Tara in Matmata Matmata Scenery Star Wars Hotel

When we arrived, we checked in with no plans other than to relax and take photos for my brother. We arrived just as lunchtime was ending but the hotel let us buy full board accommodations anyway. As soon as we were given a key we dropped off our things and joined the rest of the tourists in the dug-out rooms where lunch was being served.

Star Wars Hotel

For only three dinar each, we were given a huge spread of food including bread and harissa, egg briks, omelets with tomato salad, Tunisian salad (tomato, cabbage, and hot pepper in a vinaigrette), and a sort of spicy lamb stew that reminded me of the roasts my mother used to make every Sunday. For dessert, they served sweet, fig-filled fried pastries. It was all remarkably good.

Tara Eating Lunch

Stuffed, we went to see the hotel. The central courtyard, a large round hole dug into the ground had a raised bed of desert-loving plants growing in the middle. The rooms were dug horizontally into the courtyard wall. All of them had thick, wooden doors which didn't quite fit their plastered openings. Instead of knobs, they were simply secured shut with a padlock and chain, provided as your room key.

Star Wars Hotel Star Wars Hotel Light Switch

We were surprised by how nice and cool it was inside the hotel. It was a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun. As we entered our room and our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we both agreed that we loved the barren simplicity of the accommodations. They consisted of three beds with colorful blankets and absolutely nothing else. There were only soft white walls, a single unshaded light bulb, and cozy nooks dug into the earth (perfect for storing our few belongings). It was very peaceful and we both decided it would be nice to live underground (in the desert, anyway).

Tyler in Our Underground Room Guidebook in a Nook

After a little while we went to explore the rest of the hotel, namely the courtyard in which Star Wars was shot! It was impressive to see what a profound effect lighting and film have on a scene. What appeared so space-age and realistic in the movie was nothing more than a few spray-painted tubes and pipes! Here at the Sidi Driss, in person, it seemed like the set had been made by a junior high art class.

Star Wars Hotel Star Wars Hotel Star Wars Set

This huge, well-constructed wheel appeared to be a notable exception until I touched it. I thought it was going to fall off the wall! In all fairness, the movie was filmed here over 30 years ago.

Star Wars Cat Tyler at Star Wars Hotel Matmata Cat

A few hours later, when we were enjoying dinner in one of the rooms of the set, we looked over at the door when the waiter came in to clear the tables. On the back, scrawled upside down with permanent marker, perhaps in George Lucas' own writing, was written: Lars Homestead Door F. Cool! For some reason this small detail felt more exciting than seeing the rest of movie's remains.

Lars Homestead Door F Lars Homestead Door F Close Up Star Wars! Darth Vader

After finishing our gigantic meal we snapped another round of nighttime photos, then settled on the steps of the Star Wars courtyard and spent a few minutes looking at the stars while trying to imagine a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars Set at Night Tara at Star Wars Hotel

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4 comments

Well, you two are somewhere in Mongolia right now and I am going through withdrawal from your lack of posts. So, yesterday I decided to read all of your posts on Tunisia. You really have the most lovely and well-organized blog and someday I hope you write a book. It could be right up there with Miles from Nowhere and The Hungry Cyclist. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.
Posted by Sara Day on September 7th, 2010 at 5:56 PM
Sara,

Thank you so much - I am pretty obsessive about organization, so that was nice to hear.

We do plan to write a book or two when we return!

We'll be stopped in Ulan Bator to write up the missing two weeks soon :)

Posted by Tyler on September 13th, 2010 at 11:24 AM
Awesome! It must have been really cool to have seen that. I have some VERY Star Wars obsessed friends that would have demanded some "holy relic" from the place :)
Posted by Jeremy on January 3rd, 2011 at 6:01 PM
It is really very amazing hotel. Everything is arranged so well mannered. It spreads the fragrance of soil all around . But i want to know more about its history ,this idea to make a hotel like this.
Posted by Home Stay In Rajasthan on November 28th, 2012 at 4:09 AM
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