Journey Beyond the Screen

Chott el Jerid

Tunisia: Star WarsChott el Jerid: Lars Homestead Exterior

Location

Chott el Jerid is the largest salt pan in the Sahara Desert, covering an area of over 7,000 square metres and measuring around 250 kilometres in length. It is an extremely harsh environment to film in, with temperatures in summer reaching up to 50° celsius. A sealed causeway (P16) crosses this vast landscape, the horizon broken only by mirages wafting above the burning sand.

The nearby oases of Nefta and Touzeur provide all the necessary supplies to stay in the area for a few days, with Touzeur boasting a particularly thriving tourist quarter. From Nefta, the Lars Homestead movie location is only 10 kilometres towards the Algerian border and the drive is fairly easy, unless rain has fallen within the last 24 hours, as it softens the top layer of the salt plain.

The biggest challenge when visiting the set is to find an empty carpark.

The biggest challenge when visiting the set is to find an empty carpark.

George Lucas and his crew came here in 1976 to shoot the exterior scenes of Luke Skywalker's home for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The original set consisted of several structures, with the most iconic of these being the domed entrance to the pit dwelling of the homestead. Here Luke is raised by his uncle Lars and his aunt Beru. Fans often refer to the building as the 'igloo' or the 'dome'. After filming wrapped, the set was simply left and forgotten.

25 years later, the filmmakers returned to this very site and recreated the exact same set for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Once again, no one was interested in maintaining the structures after filming was finished. Caught between the harsh conditions of the desert and foraging visitors, the set disintegrated over time.

Stefan at the dome in 2005.

Stefan at the dome in 2005.

The dome would have eventually completely disintegrated, were it not for the dedication of Mark Dermul and a handful of other fans.

The dome in 2010.

The dome in 2010.

Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign run by Mark in 2012, the movie set was restored to its original state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Scenes

Arguably, one of the most memorable scenes of the entire Star Wars saga is the shot with Luke Skywalker gazing into the twin suns of Tatooine while contemplating his future (Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope).

A deeply spiritual moment for Luke Skywalker.

A deeply spiritual moment for Luke Skywalker.

When Stefan accompanied a dozen fans from around the world to the site in 2005, it was essential to time the site experience with the sunset in order to capture the atmosphere of this cinematic moment.

When later asked about his feelings during this special moment, this fan said to Stefan: "I did experience Luke Skywalker at the igloo with the sunset. I was living that moment."

When later asked about his feelings during this special moment, this fan said to Stefan: "I did experience Luke Skywalker at the igloo with the sunset. I was living that moment."

The set also features in two iconic scenes in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones: Anakin Skywalker and Padme arrive at the homestead in search of Anakin’s mother. When they discover that she has been hijacked, Anakin bids farewell to Padme and ventures into the dune sea to find her. The other scene has Anakin, Padme, Lars, Owen and Beru bury Shmi.

Anakin bids farewell to Padme: "You're gonna have to stay here. These are good people, Padme. You'll be safe."

Anakin bids farewell to Padme: "You're gonna have to stay here. These are good people, Padme. You'll be safe."

The Dome is also used in the last scene in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith - with Owen, Beru and the infant Luke Skywalker gazing into the sunset.

Videos

Map

Take the GP3 highway out of Touzeur and through Nefta towards the Algerian border for another 10 kilometres until you come to the 26 km roadside marker directing you towards Hazoua. Make a left turn down the embankment, continue for about 250 metres south-east, and take the right-hand track at the upcoming Y-junction, which heads onto the chott in a south-westerly direction. Follow it for 200 metres to the next junction, where the track splits into three. Take the track on the left, and then the middle one at the following junction after about 1 kilometre. Drive straight for another kilometre, before another track joins from the east. Continue for 500 metres and the dome will appear on your right, 100 metres away from the track.

The coordinates of the dome are N33° 50' 34.163" / E7° 46' 44.537"or 33.842823 / 7.779038000000014.

For more information, check out the super-practical guidebook Trip to Tatooine, put together by Star Wars location pioneer Mark Dermul.

 

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