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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.

Accessibility: Easy; desert/salt flats terrain; hard-packed sand roads; 4×4 vehicle advantageous, but not necessary; impeded by heavy rainfall; unrestricted parking surrounding the site; short low-impact hike required to climb outcrop and adjacent mesa.

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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 | canyon near Geheimhaven

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).

Accessibility: Very easy; foothills terrain; paved roads; parking area (34.032367, 8.282746) near the gorge entrance at the base of Jebel Sidi Bouhlel. Access to the western ridge summit requires moderate effort but no climbing expertise.

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Gour Beni Mzab

OVERVIEW

Site: Gour Beni Mzab dune system

GPS: ~33.871125, 7.759225

Location: Nefta dunes area (Tozeur Governorate) / Southwest Tunisia

Description: Linear dunes surrounded by desert vegetation

Star Wars film:
Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)

Set construction start: Late March 1976

Production: 24-25 March 1976

Star Wars location | Film sets:
Western Dune Sea | lifepod crash site
Western Dune Sea | krayt dragon skeleton

Leads on set:
Anthony Daniels / See Threepio (C-3PO)
Kenny Baker / Artoo Detoo (R2-D2)

Scenes:
14 [C-3PO and R2-D2 argue about which way to go] — Filmed: 24-25 March 1976
15 [C-3PO and bleached bones of beast]  Filmed: 24 March 1976
B32 [Stormtroopers find evidence of droids]  Filmed: 25 March 1976
Final cut: 3
Deleted: 0

Shifting sands: Only Star Wars film site in Tunisia rendered nearly impossible to precisely pinpoint due to the ever-changing wind-blown dune landscape and the removal of all verifiable krayt dragon pieces from the area by collectors from 1993 to 2002, concluding with a full-scale professional dig utilizing an excavator.

La Grande Dune: Star Wars tourism pioneers in the 1990s labeled the film site as “La Grande Dune,” a term no longer promulgated. Historical maps and local bedouin refer to the area as Gour Beni Mzab.

Windy chill: Despite the desert setting, crew wore jackets and eye goggles to protect against chilly temperatures (avg: 57°F/14°C) and frequent wind gusts (max: 11.4 mph/18.3 kph).

Desert sweep: Crew members pulled grass tufts from the flat areas surrounding the rolling dunes to ensure scenes shot in this open landscape resembled a vast barren desert.

Legacy: Six Tunisian extras from the Tozeur region, to include Taher Khawa (TK-1), suited up at this “Dune Sea” location to become the first-ever filmed stormtroopers in the Star Wars franchise.

Dewback: Background beast of burden (not listed in the screenplay) was a large fiberglass/latex skin prop with a big stick attached to the head to allow a crew member to replicate head movement while sitting alongside the prop.

Recycled dinosaur: Crew repurposed the enormous fiberglass prop from Disney’s One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975) as the krayt dragon skeleton (screenplay: “bleached bones of a dinosaur-like beast”) in the Dune Sea.

Dune walk: Anthony Daniels struggled with limited mobility in the C-3PO costume over the sandy terrain, a fact easily visible in the film.

Wise men: During a certain scene 14 take, the remote-controlled R2-D2 unit malfunctioned, failed to stop after disappearing behind a dune, and reportedly wandered onto the set of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977), coincidentally filming desert sequences of the biblical wise men caravanning toward Jerusalem on a neighboring dune.

Dune Sea pick-ups: R2-D2 unit experienced problems rolling on the sloping dunes, prompting the decision to finish scene 14 with pick-ups filmed during mid-January 1977 post-production shooting in Death Valley (Mojave Desert, California, USA) at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes with the Death Valley Buttes in the background.

Reshoot: Lucasfilm reworked/extended scene B32 for the Episode IV Special Edition (1997) with digitalized dewbacks and new content from a one-day live-action reshoot (11 August 1995) filmed with five stormtrooper extras (four U.S. Marines paired with Ted Gagliano, Post-Production Executive at 20th-Century Fox Studios) on the Imperial Sand Dunes (Buttercup Valley) in southeastern California (USA) near the Mexican border.

Accessibility: Intermediate; desert terrain; paved roads lead to dune system turn-off point (33.865623, 7.778686); 4×4 vehicle, off-road motorcycle, camel, or trek by foot required; impeded by heavy rainfall; non-mechanical transport is best to avoid damage to the natural landscape.