SW STORY UNCOVERED: KSAR OULED DEBBAB
29 May 2022
Building on the discovery in July 2021 of Ksar Ouled Debbab as a “lost” Star Wars recce site, Galaxy Tours CEO (Davin Anderson) confirmed critical new information on 29 May 2022 to expand the Star Wars story connected to the historic site and solve simultaneously a more than 45-year-old conundrum about the location featured in a recce sketch drawn by John Barry (production designer) during or shortly after the mid-November 1975 Star Wars location scout in Tunisia.
While exploring Ksar Ouled Debbab, Davin matched a vantage point approximately 40 meters southeast of the northwest courtyard at the site to Barry’s recce sketch, relying on the remains of a distinctive archway at the site coupled with the outline of the Jebel Dahar mountain range west of the ksar as key landmarks to verify the location. Five groups of Jawas and a moisture vaporator cluster represent the fictional elements in the sketch.
This locational match adds clarity to Barry’s sketch caption, which confusingly labels the illustration as: “Adjim Djerba. Foume Tatahouine. Ghorfa Hotel.” “Ghorfa Hotel” is a reference to the business previously in operation at Ksar Ouled Debbab, proving that the hotel was functional as early as 1975. “Foume Tatahouine” (Arabic: “mouth of the water springs”) is the antiquated name formerly used for nearby Tataouine city, which, as the only major city in the vicinity of Ksar Ouled Debbab, likely served as the base location to explore the Tataouine region during the mid-November 1975 location scout. The reference to “Adjim Djerba” links the Mos Eisley Cantina set location in Ajim to this recce site, which, according to a pre-production Tunisia shooting schedule (made prior to late January 1976), was slated to function as the Mos Eisley slum dwellings exterior for a scene—first introduced in the second draft (28 January 1975)—in which Luke stops his landspeeder to ask a group of Jawas directions to the cantina.
Due to budget constraints and logistical hurdles associated with filming at a site located so far south in the Tataouine region, the Mos Eisley slums street scene envisioned for Ksar Ouled Debbab was replaced in the fourth draft (1 January 1976) with scene 48 [Ben: “These are not the droids you’re looking for”] to be shot in Ajim. Gary Kurtz (producer) confirmed in a department heads meeting on 23 January 1976 that this script change was final, eliminating the scene of the “landspeeder approaching the town with the Jawas gathered around a solar heater” intended to be shot at “Foum Tataouine.” The decision to remove Ksar Ouled Debbab from the shooting schedule came just two months before production began in Tunisia on 22 March 1976 for the original film.
The intriguing Star Wars connection to Ksar Ouled Debbab as a second almost fictional Mos Eisley location in Tunisia (paired with Ajim) elevates this site as a must-see fandom destination deep in the Tataouine region.