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Ong Jemel outcrop

OVERVIEW

Site: Ong Jemel outcrop area

GPS: 34.015937, 7.912498

Location: Chott el-Gharsa salt flats (Tozeur Governorate) / Southwest Tunisia

Description: Meteorized rock zooform (Neogene Period)

Star Wars film:
Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)

Set construction start: Early August 1997

Production: Early August 1997

Star Wars locations | Film sets:
Mos Espa podrace circuit | Canyon Dune Turn
Mospic High Range | Sith landing desert mesa

Lead on set:
Ray Park / Darth Maul

Scenes:
84 [Darth Maul lands on desert mesa at dusk] Filmed: 5 August 1997
108 [Darth Maul follows probe droid to Mos Espa] Filmed: 5 August 1997
Final cut: 2
Deleted: 0

Sequences:
Tusken Raider sniper point #4 (podrace / lap 1)
Jawas scavenge at crash site (podrace / lap 2) <deleted>
Final cut: 1
Deleted: 1

Highway: Lucasfilm reused the hard-packed sand/salt “Saul Zaentz Imperial Highway” created during production for The English Patient (1996) to travel between the Tozeur airport and the Ong Jemel area, renaming the route as the “JAK Highway.”

Camel: No images of the north/northwest side of the outcrop—the best vantage point from which to view the formations loosely resembling the “camel’s neck” namesake of the zooform—appear in the film.

Mesa: All filming activity featuring Ray Park at this site was staged on the mesa directly south of the Ong Jemel outcrop.

Snipers: Tusken Raider extras were filmed on both the Ong Jemel outcrop and the mesa south of the outcrop for podrace sniper action.

Reconnaissance: Written in the screenplay as six Sith probe droids sent out in pairs to three different cities, the final cut limits the scope of Darth Maul’s reconnaissance to two cities (Mos Entha & Mos Espa) with only three CGI probe droids.

Viewfinder: The baseline background footage (with some CGI geographic embellishment) in Darth Maul’s electrobinocular viewfinder for the two CGI cities resembles Chott el-Gharsa, specifically the salt flats area surrounding the ridge line located some 600 meters west of the Ong Jemel outcrop.

Vanity Fair: Episode I promotional photoshoot (led by Annie Liebovitz) on 1 August 1997 staged Liam Neeson and Jake Lloyd on the mesa south of the Ong Jemel outcrop (with the “camel’s neck” visible), conflating images of Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin Skywalker in a setting used only for Darth Maul, Tusken Raiders, and Jawas in the film.

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Maguer Gorge

OVERVIEW

Site: Maguer Gorge

GPS: 34.036182, 8.280345

Location: Jebel Sidi Bouhlel, Dghoumès National Park (Tozeur Governorate) / Southwest Tunisia

Description: Geological formation (Campanian Age)

Star Wars films:
Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)

Set construction start: 26 March 1976 / n/a

Production: 26, 28-31 March, ~5 April 1976 / ~25 July 1997 

Star Wars locations | Film sets:
Jundland Wastes | rock mesa canyon
Mos Espa podrace circuit | Canyon Dune Turn
Sluuce Canyon | desert wasteland bluff

Leads on set: Episode IV
Alec Guinness / Obi-Wan Kenobi
Mark Hamill / Luke Skywalker
Anthony Daniels / See Threepio (C-3PO)
Kenny Baker / Artoo Detoo (R2-D2)
Jack Purvis / head Jawa (Legends: Dathcha)
Peter Diamond (stunt supervisor) / Tusken Raider

Scenes: Episode IV
17 [Jawas neutralize R2-D2] — Filmed: 30 March 1976
18 [Jawas carry R2-D2 to sandcrawler] — Filmed: 30 March 1976
35 [Tusken Raiders spot Luke in landspeeder] — Filmed: 29 March 1976
37 [Luke and C-3PO find R2-D2] — Filmed: 26 March 1976
38 [Luke attacked by Tusken Raiders] — Filmed: 26, 29 March 1976
39 [Arrival of Ben Kenobi in canyon] — Filmed: 28-29 March 1976
40 [Luke finds injured C-3PO] — Filmed: 28 March 1976
B42 [Luke and Ben discover killed Jawas] — Filmed: 31 March 1976
E42 [Jawa bonfire] — Filmed: 31 March 1976
47 [View of Mos Eisley, “wretched hive of scum and villainy”] — Filmed: 29 March 1976
Final cut: 10
Deleted: 0

Back-projection: Episode IV 
Scene 34 [Luke spots fugitive R2-D2] <90% deleted> — Filmed: ~5 April 1976
Final cut: 0
Deleted: 1

Sequences: Episode I
Tusken Raider sniper point #1 (podrace / lap 1) — Filmed: ~25 July 1997
Tusken Raider sniper point #2 (podrace / lap 1 and lap 2) <lap 2 deleted> — Filmed: ~25 July 1997
Tusken Raider sniper point #3 (podrace / lap 1) — Filmed: ~25 July 1997
Tusken Raider sniper point #6 (podrace / lap 2 ) — Filmed: ~25 July 1997
Tusken Raider sniper point #7 and #8 (podrace / lap 2) <deleted> — Filmed: ~25 July 1997
Tusken Raider sniper point #9 and #10 (podrace / lap 2) <deleted> — Filmed: ~25 July 1997
Final cut: 4
Deleted: 3

Indiana Jones film:
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Production: 10 September 1980

Indiana Jones location | Film set:
Greek island | Geheimhaven canyon

Leads on set: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Harrison Ford / Indiana Jones
Karen Allen / Marion Ravenwood
Paul Freeman / René Emile Belloq
Wolf Kahler / Colonel Herman Dietrich
Ronald Lacey / SS-Major Arnold Ernst Toht

Scene: Raiders of the Lost Ark
144 [Indy tracks Nazi procession, threatens ark with bazooka] — Filmed: 10 September 1980
Final cut: 1
Deleted: 0

Nickname: Popularly known as “Star Wars Canyon” due to its prolific use by Lucasfilm crews.

Aerial footage: Only Star Wars film site in Tunisia filmed from an aircraft as part of production. 

Native text: Arabic text graffiti appears in Episode IV on the canyon wall behind the parked landspeeder, inadvertently distinguishing Arabic as the first written text presented on fictional Tatooine.

Wrap: Final film site for Episode IV principal photography in Tunisia (2nd unit). 

Historic: First Star Wars prequels filming location in Tunisia.

Record: Only film site in Tunisia repurposed for three geographically distinct Star Wars locations on fictional Tatooine.

Television: Only film site in Tunisia to appear in a Star Wars franchise live-action series (The Mandalorian), featured as purchased third-party footage. 

Shared space: Indiana Jones filming areas overlap with the Star Wars footprint in the canyon, geographically pairing (1) the ark procession with C-3PO’’s post-Tusken attack recovery location, R2-D2’s alcove hideout, Luke’s landspeeder, Obi-Wan’s “Hello There!” introduction to Luke, and Tusken Raider podrace sniper point #1 as well as (2) Indy’s bazooka position with the Tusken Raider ambush boulders and Obi-Wan’s appearance point.

Cinematic overlap: Beyond the three Lucasfilm movies, canyon interior featured in three additional full-length films: The Little Prince (1974), The English Patient (1996), and Bent Keltoum (2001).

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Ksar Ommarsia

OVERVIEW

Site: Ksar Ommarsia

GPS: 33.347444, 10.492121

Location: Médenine city center (Médenine Governorate) / Southeast Tunisia

Description: Amazigh fortified granary (early 19th century CE)

Star Wars film:
Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)

Set construction start: Early July 1997

Production: 9 August 1997

Star Wars location | Film sets:
Mos Espa | Anakin Skywalker’s hovel (exterior)
Mos Espa | slave quarters street

Leads on set:
Liam Neeson / Qui-Gon Jinn
Jake Lloyd / Anakin Skywalker
Natalie Portman / Padmé Amidala Naberrie
Pernilla August / Shmi Skywalker
Dhruv Chanchani / Kitster (Legends: Kitster Chanchani Banai)
Warwick Davis / Wald

Scenes:
70 [They seek shelter from the sandstorm] — Filmed: 9 August 1997
104 [Anakin fights with Greedo] <deleted> — Filmed: 9 August 1997
107 [Anakin leaves Shmi and does not look back] — Filmed: 9 August 1997
Final cut: 2
Deleted: 1

Composited background ksar footage: 4 scenes
82 [The pod rises, the engines ignite] — Scene film site: Eriguet dunes | yardang field | Mos Espa slave quarters backyards set
88 [Probe droid searches] — Scene film site: Eriguet dunes | Mos Espa marketplace set
104 [Anakin fights with Greedo] <deleted> — Scene film site: Ksar Ommarsia
107 [Anakin leaves Shmi and does not look back] — Scene film site: Ksar Ommarsia

Ksour hub: Once home to the largest concentration of ksar architecture in Tunisia with approximately 25 ksour, Ksar Ommarsia and two adjacent ksour (Ksar Ouled Brahim and Ksar Lobbeira) are the only three remaining fortified granaries in the Médenine city center.

Pedestrian zone: The narrow ksar courtyard, a main walkway through the city center, is populated with roughly 120 ghorfas stacked up to three stories high and over 40 curvilinear concrete stairs leading to the upper-level storage chambers.

Historic: First-ever Star Wars franchise filming at a Tunisian ksar.

Decor: Crew covered the ksar courtyard stone floor with sand to depict the desert Tatooine climate, complementing the stand-alone moisture vaporator and extensive ghorfa set dressings removed after filming.

Background architecture: Post-production efforts utilized segmented plate content of three Ksar Ommarsia walls to create Mos Espa cityscape architecture in four of the five Episode I scenes containing composited background ksar footage.

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Ksar Hadada

OVERVIEW

Site: Ksar Hadada (northwest corner area)

GPS: 33.100502, 10.313744

Location: Ksar Hadada village center (Tataouine Governorate) / Southeast Tunisia

Description: Amazigh fortified granary village (mid-19th century CE)

Repurposed: Hotel Ksar Hadada

Star Wars film:
Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)

Set construction start: Early July 1997

Production: 10 August 1997

Star Wars location | Film sets:
Mos Espa | slave quarters backyards
Mos Espa | slave quarters street

Leads on set:
Liam Neeson / Qui-Gon Jinn
Natalie Portman / Padmé Amidala Naberrie
Pernilla August / Shmi Skywalker

Scenes:
80 [“There’s something about this boy”] — Filmed: 10 August 1997
81 [Qui-Gon and Shmi on porch discuss Anakin] — Filmed: 10 August 1997
A82 [Shmi standing alone on porch] — Filmed: 10 August 1997
85 [Padmé exits hovel at sunrise] <deleted> — Filmed: 10 August 1997
Final cut: 3
Deleted: 1

Composited background ksar footage: 1 scene 
85 [Padmé exits hovel at sunrise] <deleted> — Scene film site: Ksar Hadada

Recce: Only prequels film site in Tunisia to be initially scouted but not utilized for Episode IV. The mid-November 1975 recce explored the then-newly restored northwest corner of the site, presumably as a potential location for unrealized Mos Eisley slums street sequences.

Tataouine: Only Star Wars film site located in the Tunisian region of Tataouine, the orthographic inspiration for renaming the desert planet of Utapau to Tatooine in the Episode IV fourth draft (1 January 1976).

Template: Film site north courtyard—not used for filming—matched with other northwest corner elements replicated to construct the Mos Espa slave quarters backyards set (Mos Espa small set) in the Eriguet dunes north of Nefta (Tozeur Governorate).

Café: Northeast corner of Café Salon de Thé (local business) visible in film footage.

Background architecture: Post-production efforts utilized segmented plate content of the Ksar Hadada northwest corner porch to create Mos Espa cityscape architecture in one of the five Episode I scenes containing composited background ksar footage.

Wrap: Final film site/production date for 1st unit Episode I principal photography in Tunisia.

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Eriguet dunes
(yardang field)

OVERVIEW

Site: Eriguet dune system

GPS: 33.994671, 7.848898

Location: Dune landscape south of Chott el-Gharsa (Tozeur Governorate) / Southwest Tunisia

Description: Salt-saturated barchanoid dunes (quartz/gypsum sands)

Star Wars film:
Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)

Set construction start: Early May 1997

Production: Late July to early August 1997

Star Wars locations | Film sets:
Mos Espa | slave quarters backyards
Xelric Draw | Mos Espa outskirts
Xelric Draw | Naboo spacecraft (ramp)

Leads on set:
Liam Neeson / Qui-Gon Jinn
Jake Lloyd / Anakin Skywalker
Natalie Portman / Padmé Amidala Naberrie
Ewan McGregor / Obi-Wan Kenobi
Hugh Quarshie / Captain Panaka (Legends: Quarsh Panaka)
Dhruv Chanchani / Kitster (Legends: Kitster Chanchani Banai)
Ray Park / Darth Maul
Kenny Baker / R2-D2
Ahmed Best / Jar Jar Binks
Oliver Walpole / Seek
Katie Lucas / Amee
Megan Udall / Melee
Warwick Davis / Wald

Scenes:
60 [They trek across the desert, Padmé joins the group] — Filmed: 30 July 1997
68 [“This storm will slow them down”] — Filmed: 30 July 1997
80 [“There’s something about this boy”] <replaced> — Filmed: 30 July 1997
81 [Qui-Gon and Shmi on porch discuss Anakin] — Filmed: 4 August 1997
82 [The pod rises, the engines ignite] — Filmed: 4 August 1997
86 [Dawn before the race] <deleted> Filmed: 6-7 August 1997
103 [They return with the hyperdrive] — Filmed: 30 July 1997
110 [Darth Maul attacks on his speeder] — Filmed: 31 July, 8 August 1997
113 [Qui-Gon and Darth Maul continue their sword battle] — Filmed: 31 July, 8 August 1997
114 [Maul leaps up and falls back to the desert floor] — Filmed: 31 July 1997
Final cut: 8
Deleted: 1
Replaced: 1

Historic: First-ever Star Wars franchise lightsaber duel filmed on location.

Undercover: Small team of German journalists representing Cinema Zeitschrift acquired unsanctioned aerial photographs from a hot-air balloon in early August 1997 of Episode I filming activity, providing unique primary source locational documentation for the Eriguet dunes film sites.

Yardang fields: Although groupings of uniquely shaped windblown sand formations (yardangs) populate assorted pockets of the Tunisian Eriguet dunes landscape, only one yardang field is featured in Star Wars prequels footage.

Template: Architectural elements distinct to the film site area (northwest corner) of Ksar Hadada, located circa 250 km to the southeast, were used as the template to construct a disjointed Mos Espa slave quarters backyards film set (porch and courtyard) in the northern perimeter of the yardang field film site.

Small set: Mos Espa slave quarters backyards film set (buried since ~2004) is also known as the Mos Espa “small set” in comparison to the preserved Mos Espa marketplace/arena pit area set (Mos Espa “large set”) situated approximately 600 meters to the southwest beyond a prominent barchanoid dune.

Tonsillitis: McGregor reportedly suffered from tonsillitis during Episode I production, making him look ill in much of the footage shot in the yardang field film site, which prompted the need to reshoot at Leavesden Studios (England) several of his Tatooine exterior scenes.

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Eriguet dunes
(Mos Espa set area)

OVERVIEW

Site: Eriguet dune system

GPS: 33.994316, 7.842731

Location: Dune landscape south of Chott el-Gharsa (Tozeur Governorate) / Southwest Tunisia

Description: Salt-saturated barchanoid dunes (quartz/gypsum sands)

Star Wars films:
Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)
Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002)

Set construction start: Early May 1997 / early August 2000

Production: Late July to mid-August 1997 / 10 September 2000

Star Wars locations | Film sets:
Mos Espa | marketplace
Mos Espa podrace circuit | Grand Arena — grandstand
Mos Espa podrace circuit | Grand Arena — pit area
Mos Espa podrace circuit | Grand Arena — starting grid
Mos Espa podrace circuit | Grand Arena — viewing platform

Leads on set: Episode I
Liam Neeson / Qui-Gon Jinn
Jake Lloyd / Anakin Skywalker
Natalie Portman / Padmé Amidala Naberrie
Dhruv Chanchani / Kitster (Legends: Kitster Chanchani Banai)
Pernilla August / Shmi Skywalker
Margaret Towner / Jira
Kenny Baker / R2-D2
Ahmed Best / Jar Jar Binks
Warwick Davis / Wald
Danny Wagner / Mawhonic

Leads on set: Episode II
Hayden Christensen / Anakin Skywalker
Natalie Portman / Padmé Amidala Naberrie
Andy Secombe (voice actor) / Watto

Scenes: Episode I
61 [The odd little group walks down the street] Filmed: 2 August 1997
62 [“We’ll try one of the smaller dealers”] Filmed: 2 August 1997
64 [They move thru the yard picking parts] Filmed: 2,7 August 1997
66 [They find a quiet spot & consider a solution] Filmed: 28 July 1997
67 [Sebulba confronts Jar Jar, Anakin steps in] Filmed: 29 July, 6 August 1997
69 [Anakin stops at Jira’s fruit stand] Filmed: 28 July 1997
76 [Sandstorm engulfs the town] Filmed: 7 August 1997
78 [The storm passed. Padmé doesn’t approve of plan] Filmed: 2 August 1997
88 [Probe droid searches] Filmed: 6 August 1997
91 [The pilots bow to Jabba] Filmed: 5-6 August 1997
92 [Final preparations for the pod race] Filmed: 5 August 1997
93 [Group prepares to watch race, Shmi looks nervously to Qui-Gon] Filmed: 1 August 1997
94 [Pods shoot forward. Anakin’s engines finally ignite] Filmed: 6 August 1997
100 [They celebrate Anakin’s victory] Filmed: 6 August 1997
109 [Qui-Gon cuts probe droid as they leave Jira] <deleted> Filmed: 2 August 1997
Final cut: 14
Deleted: 1

Sequences: Episode I
Grandstand reactions (podrace) — 40 sequences — Filmed: 4-5 August 1997
Pit area reactions (podrace) — 13 sequences — Filmed: 1 August 1997
Viewing platform reactions (podrace) — 16 sequences — Filmed: 1 August 1997
Final cut: 60
Deleted: 9

Scenes: Episode II
80 [Encounter at Watto’s shop] — Filmed: 10 September 2000
97 [Anakin talks to the Jawas] <reshoot> Filmed: 10 September 2000
Final cut: 2
Deleted: 0

Star Wars city: Cinematographic advances backed by a massive film budget drove the decision to construct Mos Espa cityscape and podrace arena set elements in the Tunisian Eriguet dunes for Star Wars prequels production.

Historic: First Star Wars prequels completed scene location filmed in Tunisia (Mos Espa set).

Undercover: Small team of German journalists representing Cinema Zeitschrift acquired unsanctioned aerial photographs from a hot-air balloon in early August 1997 of Episode I filming activity, providing unique primary source locational documentation for the Eriguet dunes film sites. 

Aircraft parts: Nine full-sized podracers (engine/cockpit: 18 pieces total) paired with four podracer cut-outs (engine only) populated the Mos Espa arena starting grid area.

Large set: Mos Espa main set, hub for all Star Wars prequels filming activity in the Eriguet dunes, is also known as the Mos Espa “large set,” distinguishing this preserved Star Wars site from the now-buried Mos Espa “small set” constructed circa 600 meters to the northeast beyond a prominent barchanoid dune.

Djerban influence: Core elements of Djerban architecture (Amazigh/Ibadi Islamic blended style) shaped the “Tatooine” design of all 25 structures featured in the Mos Espa set, defined by (1) simplistic domes, (2) barrel-vaulted roofs, and (3) weight-bearing external buttresses.

Surrounding sets: Episode I footage incorporated three additional filming locations in direct vicinity of the Mos Espa set: (1) grandstand set, (2) starting grid set, and (3) viewing platform set.