It’s not my fault…
Or, well, maybe it is.
Even though they run fairly consistently, the ferry takes some time. It’s taking quite a while to get through the queue to get onboard. We got today’s itinerary started at least 40 minutes late as I wanted to go back and reshoot at Toshe Station and Ben Kenobi’s homestead. I’m feeling guilty as we pull up to get in line as it stretches a long way… but whatever. It’s my tour. We’ve waited through three ferries to get across so far and a large tanker truck just cut the line; while 20 passenger cars can be transported in one go, that number is slashed dramatically when ferrying tour buses or trucks. I hope I haven’t messed up the schedule too badly. I’m really looking forward to today’s location visits.
Ironically the CGI’d shot from yesterday at Toshe Station looks pretty good compared to the practical “no, this is real” shot I took today. We had crystal clear blue skies this morning so it was nice to see it one last time anyway.
Below: CGI on the left, Practical on the right.
Plus some bonus shots of the day, because when in Tunisia, if you need a power converter there really is only one place to go: Tosche Station.
And I’m much happier with my pose at Obi Wan’s hovel. Albeit looking back on it as I stand around here waiting for the fifth ferry, maybe I should’ve thrown on my Poe/Finn jacket. Is it too late to run back?
Also while killing time at the ferry docks I did grab a photo with this seemingly abandoned water fountain featuring a mermaid. Mondher tells me her sign roughly translates to “all light on nice beaches.” That’s a nice sentiment even if I’m not entirely sure the English does justice to the poetry.
Later I spotted a Jedi Knight sitting beneath her. Might just be a local but I surreptitiously snapped this photo because I found it charming.
A few (okay, MANY) stray shots of Ajim’s FerryLand (note: not it’s real name).
Seattle-ites, New Yorkians, Hong Kong-ians and everyone else used to ferries May be ho-hum about a ferry ride but it was kinda fun for me as a unique experience. Plus, did I mention it was in Tunisia?
There’s actually a bunch of video I took as well but this WiFi I’m using to try and get this uploaded at the hotel is maddeningly inconsistent. I’m lucky to get the photos up. I suspect trying to upload a video would cause the entire power grid to go boom.
But back to the day in question — after our 15 minute voyage, we dock at El Jorf on the mainland around 10:45 am. Medenine is our next destination, home to the Skywalker slave quarters in THE PHANTOM MENACE.
The Szars are storage units/graineries and they originated with the Berbers in the 11th Century. The storehouses were typically built into the mountains, and camouflaged to blend in.
In the 18th century, Arab villages started building their own szars, just as the one here in Medenine as village storage units. This particular szar were the exteriors for Shmi and Anakin Skywalker’s slave quarters.
Remember it’s been 19 years since the release so there’s been a lot of development around the area. Kiosks/storage have come and gone, albeit some still exist. Hard to tell what’s current and what’s closed and what’s abandoned. And surrounding the area there are multistorey units and marketplaces galore.
I climbed all over to try and get different angles and perspectives. Hopefully some of these admittedly WAY-too-many-uploaded shots convey the scene… both as in the film and for the surrounding real world.
We are currently 480 km from Tunis and will make our way back via various Star Wars locations. It will take several days…but that’s mainly because I keep taking gigabytes of photos.
Tatouine, Tunisia, the namesake for Luke’s home world of Tatooine, is a larger, newer town. We stop for sandwiches/lunch because as Mohammed tells me, “it’s not Ramadan; we are not fasting.” I like these guys. They are funny guys.
I don’t speak French or Arabic, nor the mixture of the two that flows between the two but I KNOW that tone. It’s “I don’t know… what do YOU want to eat?” “I don’t care. How about that place?” “No, not there.” “Well, then what do YOU want?” We wind up at this chicken place. I said I only needed something small. This is what happened:
Afterwards they told me Tatouine is famous for its gazelle horn (I *think* that’s what they told me) a small pastry filled with almonds and dipped in honey.
It’s like a bear claw, except not really at all. It’s super sweet and super good but good god! I need to find out how to say “just a little” and have it mean what I think it means. Apparently un peu isn’t getting it done.
We stopped at a Berber grainery storage, the Ksar Mgabla, dating as I said before from the 11th Century.
Tunisia feels a lot less like Tatooine and a lot more like Arizona or New Mexico… with a few more olive and palm trees.
Another town, another Ksar, this one an 18th Century Arab one called El Farch.
The Ksar Hedada is the second location for the Mos Espa Slavs Quarters for THE PHANTOM MENACE. Qui Gon Jinn and Shmi have a chat about Anakin’s miraculous birth on a balcony here as well as being the site of a midichlorian (sigh) blood test.
Mohammed and Mondher told me last week they had two guys from the Carolinas on this same tour and they were super fans. They donated some of their props thus I was a hand-me-down beneficiary.
FN-2187, is that you?
Here’s a throwaway shot of a giant dinosaur on a mountain – it marks where dino bones were discovered here in Tunisia.
We made one final ksar stop at Hallou, a Berber ksar built on a steep hilltop. Two fortresses stand guard over it on adjoining mountaintops.
A local shared some mint tea with me; I tipped him a dinar, though I wish he hadn’t stuffed a bunch of fresh mint into my jacket pocket as it disintegrated and now there’s tiny mint leaves all over the place.
Here’s a fun fact: all places in Tunisia that begin with T are of Berber origins, including the country’s name.
Here for example is a T-Berber village that was founded in the 11th Century.
A view of Toujene:
As the sun was setting we cane to Matmata, a place that has five dig out pits that up until the late 1960s were pretty much all that was around here. A lot has changed in the intervening decades, not least of which were multiple appearances in a little film series called Star Wars.
I’m staying the night at Hotel Sidi Driss which is quite literally the interiors for the Lars Family Homestead.
How to describe sleeping at the Hotel Sidi Driss? If you were to find yourself in East Germany in 1988, sleeping in an abandoned train car that had been left in, uh, a dilapidated quarry, that might approximate it. My room is number 15 (George Lucas apparently used to stay in 8… or so I hear tell). There’s one light switch/outlet. If you plug anything into the outlet, the switch cannot be turned on which makes the room pitchblack.
I’m in hole three. The main Star Wars Lars Homestead location is hole two. There are five holes in total but I’m not sure how to access the rest of them, even if I were to try and rappel down into them. In 1969, there wasn’t much else around and here’s a photo in the lobby that shows what it was like way back when.
I’ve always loved photos of an area in its past. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to these Star Wars locations. Yes, it is one of my beloved franchises and I know the classic trilogy better than almost any work of art. But there’s something especially charming about seeing the “sets” and locations 41+ years on from A New Hope or 19+ years on from The Phantom Menace. The world has changed, the surroundings have changed, and yet as we pull up onto locations in our 4×4 or round the corner whilst walking, I know the space overwhelmingly as a Star Wars space. Is it the air, the architecture or dare I say the Force that draws me so?
And thus while this hotel is especially weird – bathrooms and showers aren’t even in my hole? No worries. I can wear shoes to cross the open courtyard if I feel the need to use the facilities – I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m only here one night, but I’m glad I’m here.
They’re currently investigating a renovation of the space to better recreate the Lars Homestead and restore the moisture farm atmosphere to the place. Me? Despite the crappy amenities, I kinda dig the rusted faded glory of the place. To those that know and care, that original movie vibe is the stuff of legend – what a crazy idea George Lucas had. A space western saga with aliens and robots and bizarre words like Kenobi and Mos Eisley and Jedi and Sith. It was a young man’s dream writ large that caught the imagination of the world.
Why did I compare the present day hotel with 1988 East Germany? There’s a bar attached to the place… not a cantina, a bar… and the drunken Eastern Europeans karoaking… poorly… to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face over and over and over again (they only seemed to know the lyrics “PO-PO-PO-PO-PO-PO-Poker Face!”) were the main accompaniment to my not-very-good dinner. I ate much more of it than I intended, illogically thinking if I stuffed my face long enough my own shewing might overpower the cat-drone of our Faux Gaga-ettes.
Such is life… they stumbled off and I was left on my own to wander about and snap some late night photos before they shut the power down.
That also meant though that the weak WiFi in the pit of these living holes was shut down too… meaning this blog post is going up later than I’d like. But what’cha gonna do? You can’t fight the galactic empire… or can you?