Fantha Tracks: Travelling to The Phantom Menace shooting locations in Tunisia
From Fantha Tracks:
“To start off this celebration year I (someone who loves The Phantom Menace which started my love for Star Wars) visited the shooting locations in Tunisia. […]
Below follows a travel journal from myself, and while the focus is on the shooting locations of Episode I and the state they appear in after twenty years, I won’t forget other locations from Attack of the Clones and A New Hope.
Visiting Anakin Skywalker
The day after landing in Djerba I went on my first road trip through the country. Now normally people decide to start with Ajim and the A New Hope locations there, but as said my nostalgia lies with The Phantom Menace, so my first stop was Medenine. […]
Skywalker Alley is the nickname given by fans for the exterior of the front of the home of Anakin and Shmi. This was filmed in front of existing ghorfas (grain storage rooms, combined together in a ksar) in an unnamed street. […]
Even after twenty years, the location is still instantly recognizable from the movie. A few differences can be noted however: The lovely prop-doors have been removed, and most of them by local people. Steve Sansweet managed to rescue one of those doors (which was being used in a chicken coop) and has put it in his collection in Rancho Obi-Wan. And, curiously, there is no sand in front of the doors, but rather big paved stones that would be murder to travel with your bike over. The main downside came from one ghorfa being either in the process of getting demolished or crumbling down in decay on its own. […]
To visit the backside of Anakin’s home you have to travel roughly 36 kilometers, which takes about 45 minutes, to the town of Ksar Hedada. Unlike Medenine, this location is actually quite easy to spot: It is a hotel right in front of a mosque with a big sign in front of it telling you in French, Arabic and English that you have arrived on a shooting location site for The Phantom Menace.
Now while the owners claim it is a hotel, I personally could not imagine sleeping there and could not find a way to book a room. Anyway, for a couple of dinar (3 dinar is around 1 euro or dollar, with 1 British Pound being almost 4 dinar) you gain access to the hotel and a cup of (bit bitter) tea. Right after entering the premise, take a left and keep walking till the end.
There you will see the balcony where Shmi and Qui-Gon talk while watching young Anakin prepare his podracer. However this was clever editing because the podracer actually stood on a small set nearby the Mos Espa sets, but has been lost in the sands of time. Luckily the balcony is still there, in great condition, but the recent renovations to the hotel does mean they added an arch that was not there in the movie.
The most special part of this location is the re-discovery of a location us fans thought had been lost: The small wall Anakin sits on while Qui-Gon takes his blood to be tested for midi-chlorians. The British fan, and location expert, Colin Kenworthy, had speculated that this wall was not a small set but a part of an existing set, with Ksar Hedada as his number 1 possibility. He had asked me to check and confirm, and that I can do: It was right here, a little bit to the right of the balcony. […]
Mos Espa sets
They say save the best for last, and by coincidence, that really was the case with visiting the Mos Espa sets and nearby locations like the landing sites of the Sith Infiltrator and the ship of Queen Amidala. The location for these are a little above the town of Nefta, with the landing sites closer to Ong Jmel (Camel Rock). […]
After passing [a small market near the sets] you enter the first street that features some generic buildings that you can still identify in the movie besides not having a clear function to it like Akim’s Munch. This was the café where Sebulba got into a fight with Jar Jar Binks. And while the chairs and other set decorations are obviously long gone, those arches with little windows make it quite recognizable. With no angry Dug to threaten me I took my time and shot quite a few pictures there myself. When you walk onwards you quickly make the bend to the other street and there I saw the building that hit me the most emotionally: Watto’s shop.
Now I mentioned earlier in this article that my love for Star Wars came from this movie, and a big part of it came from Mos Espa’s aliens like Watto. So I admit, I had to fight some emotional tears from welling up when I walked over there. The door of the shop is one you cannot open, but walking around it you will come across an opening in the wall through which you can still enter the shop. Only you see the typical fake-Hollywood interior for any set with just some wooden beams to support the front. Yet that did not ruin the illusion at all of walking through Mos Espa. The sets are in a pretty decent shape, although the sand that starts to pile up against some of the buildings are a bit of a concern. […]