In a land not so far away, fans of a certain movie franchise can pursue their interests beyond a collection of DVD releases and limited edition toys. Enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the film’s location, sleeping at the setting of one of the episode’s key scenes.
In Matama, Star Wars doesn’t have to be an obsession enjoyed from the periphery.
Located towards the southern end of Tunisia, the small town of Matmata is an unassuming settlement with a population of around 2,000. Left to their own devices for hundreds of years, the town’s residents have long led a simple life, producing olive oil as a means of getting by.
As recent developments have facilitated travel to isolated destinations, Matmata has become a popular spot to visit, thanks in no small part to the town’s troglodyte dwellings. Visitors have ample opportunity to walk around these sub-surface homes, exploring traditional Berber ways of life.
And when a certain production company by the name of Lucasfilm Ltd. decided to shoot a portion of a film in the small town, Matmata gained a special sort of notoriety.
Credit: Arian Zwegers
A New Hope
With desolate surrounds and basic cave dwellings, Matmata was chosen as the setting for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. And of all the locations throughout the city, the one chosen for Luke Skywalker’s humble home now exists as the Hotel Sidi Driss.
Hotel Sidi Driss
For Star Wars junkies and those seeking interesting accommodations, the Hotel Sidi Driss provides an uncommon spot to spend the night. Built into the ground, the hotel consists of a series of small caves serving as rooms.
With simplicity in mind, each cave is outfitted with a bed and some authentic Berber furnishings. Limited plumbing will have you using communal toilets and showers. And getting around is as simple as passing through tunnels, which were built to connect the facility’s five pits.
All in all, the hotel is a far cry from luxury accommodations. However, if you’re looking for both a bed and an experience, Sidi Driss is more than satisfactory.
Look to pay at least $10 for a night’s stay. This cost will also include a basic breakfast.
Credit: Panegyrics of Granovetter
Beyond the Hotel
While the hotel will provide a decent night’s sleep in a troglodyte dwelling, your room will not exactly be the authentic Berber experience. For that you’ll need to visit Matmata’s tiny museum.
Organized as a series of rooms with a number of displays, the museum provides a history of the town as well as a look into the workings of daily life. You’ll see mannequins suited up in traditional dress, placed in caves done up as kitchens, bedrooms, and dining rooms.
When To Go
With a fairly dry climate, there’s no bad time to visit Matmata. Look for nighttime temperatures to get a little chilly between December and February.
At its hottest, Matmata will reach temperatures of 91°F (33°C) in July and August. Expect Winter temperatures to range between 46°F (8°C) and 64°F (18°C). You won’t see much more than 34mm of precipitation per month.
Getting There & Around
Starting off in Tunis, you can take an extensive bus trip the 280 miles (450km) to Matmata. Alternately, consider a shared taxi southbound from the coastal town of Gabis.
- Sidi Driss Accommodations: $10-$20
- Meal: $9-15
- Beer: $2
- Enjoy the fact that Matmata hasn’t decided to cover their town in Star Wars merchandise.
- Attempt to get a tour of a typical family cave.
- Visit the town’s handicraft centre where you can pick up a quality souvenir.
- Feel the need to spend more than one night in Matmata.
- Expect clean bathroom facilities at the hotel.
- Worry about nightly vacancy at the hotel.
- Extensive rainfall in 1967 caused a collapse of many of Matmata’s dwellings.
- Matmata was used as a map in the video game ‘Call of Duty 2′
- Tunisia’s capital city, Tunis, holds 1/4 of the nation’s population.
Feature Image Credit Veronique Debord