I’m having an off day and I think my tour guides can tell. I had some language barrier issues with this hotel and thus didn’t realize breakfast was included. I just thought I’d skip it until Mohammed and Mondher showed me where the large dining area was hidden in plain sight. It was behind a set of French doors, unmarked and just felt like another section of the hotel. I waved off having anything as I kinda just wanted to get out of there.
I don’t know if I’ve posted a photo of my tour guides. I’ve taken several but in the mad dash to get stuff uploaded they may have been lost in the internet. So here’s a selfie-three-fi.
I had misread the itinerary for today and would’ve worn a different shirt had I realized today was the day we’d be hitting the Lars Family Homestead exterior in Chott El Jerid. Through movie magic, this location, several hundred kilometers from the Hotel Sidi Driss, seamlessly blended in. But it’s in the middle of nowhere at the edge of the great Tunisian Salt Lake.
I continue to have WiFi issues so I’m going to try and keep the photos to iconic minimums. Besides, I’m having a personal self-consciously-awkward image day and hate just about every photo with me in it. I just seem so… bulbous. But this is literally a once-in-a-lifetime set of shots so I guess we take what we can get. On top of that, I’m going to try not to wander into the personal reflections too much today – I’m behind on getting stuff uploaded anyway so I’m opting to favor images over prose as that’s probably better time spent.
Because of the angle, my classic Skywalker pose gazing off at the horizon made it look like I was hopping on one leg. So instead, here’s a different pose, very much in keeping with my reshoots out at ol’ Ben Kenobi’s abode on Djerba.
And here are the culled but still WAY too many shots of the Lars homestead.
As we drove north into the salt lake, which by the way extends all across Tunisia for some 300 kilometers, we came to the Mos Espa Village set. I misunderstood Mondher yesterday in that THIS is the section of the salt lake that not only saw the space port set for that SECOND most wretched hive of scum and villainy, it was also where they shot Queen Amidala’s starship and the Jinn/Maul desert saber duel. The pictures reveal the truth. And this location was literally a dune’s walk away from Mos Espa.
The Phantom Menace was shot in 1997 and in the intervening 21 years, several of the facades of Mos Espa have fallen into disrepair. But unlike the Lars Homestead or the Cantina from A New Hope, there were greater government efforts this time around to preserve a few things in the hopes of maximizing tourism dollars. There’s still a long ways to go but when you peek inside the buildings and see the set building meant to last only as long as filming, well, it’s in pretty good shape. Maybe some of the nomadic traders looking to sell their pashminas with iron on images of the movies are doing a bit of upkeep now and again.
I’m looking especially chunky in these shots but so be it. There is a shot of me and my shadow that I’m hoping to CGI Darth Vader’s image onto, a la the teaser poster for Episode I. We’ll see if I can make that happen.
Ong Jemel or “The Neck of the Camel” was our next stop. This was where Darth Maul released his Sith probes… and intriguingly Mondher knew it far better as where they shot The English Patient. In a flashback it’s where Ralph Fiennes has tea with Kristen Scott Thomas. Mondher knew A LOT about the English Patient, way more than Star Wars. Just goes to show we all have movies we’re passionate about.
I climbed the Neck (Mohammed warned me it was perhaps deceptively easy to get up; I should be very careful coming back down… and he was right. I slid most of the way on my butt). At the top, shooting some panoramas, I could feel my borderline vertigo kick in. On the plus side, I didn’t fall. Apparently I only fall down one step in Tunisia.
We took a brief stop at a small park dedicated to the famous Tunisia poet Abou Alkassem Chebbi. He used to come to this spot to write and meditate and be inspired. Those are his faces you’ll see below… not the one of the left obviously. That’s me.
We also stopped at the local brick making field, a place I found hard to tell the demarcation between raw materials, finished items, and waste byproducts. Still, fascinating to see.
Before returning to the hotel to finish today’s sites around mid-day, we went through part of the Tozeur Oasis. This is why this town has been here for centuries – fresh water and vegetation, now home to a massive agriculture and thriving urban scene. Today they estimate there are at least 400,000 palm trees in the oasis… and explains why though they grow bananas, almonds, oranges and other fruits, dates are the biggest product by far.
And because no Tunisian blog post is complete without a photo of the ridiculous amounts of bread I’m eating (That COULDN’T be why I’m so chunky, right?), here’s a shot at lunch… a lunch wherein I had couscous with camel meat. It does NOT taste like chicken… it does taste like beef.
Tomorrow is the last day of the tour. And while there are no more Star Wars sites on the itinerary, there IS a bonus LucasFilm set visit. We will be visiting the marketplace of Kairouan, home to a spectacular “Cairo” basket chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark.