Star Wars Tourism Threatened by Terrorism

By  · Published on March 25th, 2015


If you’ve always dreamed of visiting the Tunisian locations used for the Star Wars movies, including actual sets built in the Sahara and left behind, now is not the best time. Usually fans are encouraged to visit southeastern Tunisia in the late Spring due to the desert climate, but currently travel to these iconic destinations is being heavily discouraged. While terrorists have not hijacked the remains of Luke Skywalker’s childhood home, CNN reports that the city of Tataouine has become a way station for members of the extremist group ISIS on the route between Tunisia and Libya.

Tataouine wasn’t used as a location for any of the Star Wars movies, but it is credited as the namesake for Skywalker’s planet of origin, Tatooine, so the city has been a part of Star Wars tourism guides., for instance, includes Tataouine as a site to stop through on your way from Medenine to Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Hadada, all homes to spots used for slave quarters seen in The Phantom Menace, including those where Anakin and Shmi Skywalker lived, on the way to Matmata, the famous location for Luke’s home in the first movie and later reused in the prequels. Matmata is about two hours from Tataouine by car.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Star Wars tourism in Tunisia being under threat. A couple years ago CNN also reported that the remaining sets near the city Tozeur that served as parts of the Tatooine spaceport of Mos Espa, were being slowly covered by dunes. There was even an unsuccessful Indiegogo campaign launched last year to save and preserve the location, which appears in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Locals were hopeful in the past few years for a rise in visits from Star Wars fans following Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution of 2011.

Tozeur is also a few hours away from Tataouine, and it’s even farther from Tunis, where the terrorist attack at the Bardo National Museum too place last week. Still, even with Tunisian authorities fighting for the security of the nation against ISIS, travel to the area including Tataouine, Medenine, Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Hadada is being advised by the UK government as only for essential purposes, not tourism. Hopefully, more for the sake of the locals who depend on the tourism trade than the Star Wars fans being shut out, that will change very soon.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.