Journey Beyond the Screen

Mos Espa

Tunisia: Star WarsMos Espa

Location

This set was built for filming all the major street scenes that take place in the spaceport town of Mos Espa in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. It orginally consisted of 30 major structures, two main roads and one small square. Sadly, most buildings have suffered badly from the elements, not to mention the numerous treasure hunters who have pilfered from the set.

Yet still, it is a spectacular site. After an exhilarating ride through the sand dunes, Mos Espa seems to appear out of nowhere, as if literally transported to Earth from another galaxy.

Mos Espa from afar.

Mos Espa from afar.

One can only imagine how realistic it must have looked during filming. In saying that, the following images give a pretty good idea of the amount of detail that went into the set decoration.

Mos Espa at the the time of principal photography (1997).

Mos Espa at the the time of principal photography (1997).

The set is now maintained by the Tunisian government in order to attract more tourists. Let's hope that this unique piece of movie history will not be swallowed by the ever advancing sand dunes.

Key Scenes

 

The first time we see the set is in the scene where Qui-Gon Jinn, Jar Jar Binks and Padme enter Mos Espa (1).

Qui-Gon Jinn and his two companions are heading for Watto's junkshop. Here, they meet the shop owner Watto and also the young Anakin Skywalker (3).

Other Mos Espa scenes include the bazaar from which Jar Jar steals a fish (8); the tavern where the character of Sebulba is introduced (6); Anakin being warned about the sandstorm (7); Qui-Gon communicating with Obi Wan about his troubles getting the hyperdrive part (5); and Qui-Gon and Watto arguing in the junkyard (4). Number (2) on the map marks the spot, where the green landspeeder is parked.

Sebulba threatens Jar Jar (6).

Sebulba threatens Jar Jar (6).

The set was also used in a short sequence in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, with Anakin and Padme questioning Watto in search for information about Anakin’s mother Shmi.

Videos

Map

The Mos Espa set lies in the same area as the yardang field and Darth Maul's lookout. Bear in mind that the site is hard to find without a local guide. Should you decide to drive without a guide, make sure that you have a full tank of gas and plenty of water.

Take the sandy piste to Chott el-Gharsa, which starts at the northern edge of Tozeur, skirting the back of the airport. When the track joins up with a sealed road, turn left into that road. After about 200 metres, turn right and go around a palm grove. You are now driving on the 'Saul Zaentz Imperial Highway', named after the producer of The English Patient, who when filming in the area requested this road be upgraded. 

Follow the piste, which is mainly hardpacked sand or salt, until it approaches the chott and climbs up to a ridge. From here, the route takes you in a north north-west direction. After 24 kilometres on the Saul Zaentz Imperial Highway, you should spot a tall rock cairn on the ridge to your right, immediately followed by a junction. The right track leads to Ong Jemal and the location of Darth Maul's lookout.

The left branch takes you down the ridge and onwards for another 10 kilometres towards the yardang field, where Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn had their first light sabre duel, and the Mos Espa set.

The set is located at N33° 59' 39.466" / E7° 50' 33.637" or 33.994296 / 7.842677.

For more information on the Mos Espa movie set, refer to Mark Dermul's guidebook Trip to Tatooine

 

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