Ksar Ouled Abdallah
Site: Ksar Ouled Abdallah
Location: Metameur (Médenine Governorate) / Southeast Tunisia
GPS: 33.368891, 10.436985
Description: Amazigh fortified granary (18th century CE)
Star Wars recce: Episode I – Tunisia (1995)
Source: Original recce photograph
Potential Star Wars set concepts:
Mos Espa | slave quarters backyards
Mos Espa | slave quarters street
Accessibility: Very easy; flat terrain; paved roads; parking area (33.369041, 10.437368) directly at the site entrance.
Metameur (alternately: Om Ettamr, Oum El Tamer, Oum Tameur), positioned 6 km northwest of Médenine city via the P1/C104 route in the centrally accessible semiarid Jeffara plain, was purportedly founded in the 18th century CE by a local marabout named Sidi Ahmed Lahjel (alternately: Sidi Ahmed Ben Adjel) who established residence in a hermit cave in the direct vicinity. (Sidi Ahmed Lahjel was the grandson of Sidi Ali Ben Abid, traditional founder of Médenine city). Arab tribal descendants (Tamri / alternately: Temara) of Sidi Ahmed Lahjel and Amazigh tribal descendants of his followers (Hrarza / alternately: Harraza) established the village in proximity to his cave. Although some scholars skeptically suggest that ksar structures might have existed in Metameur as early as the 14th century CE, the earliest archaeological confirmation of ksour in the village dates to the 18th century CE. Not all of the ksour built in Metameur, categorized as “second generation” ksour of the plains, have survived to the present day.
Ksar Ouled Abdallah (alternately: Ksar Gueblaoui), named after the Ouled Abdallah band of the Hrarza tribe, is the largest and most important among the cluster of five historic ksour remaining in Metameur, situated in the southwest section of the modern village. (The other four ksour in Metameur are named: Ksar El Khoukha, Ksar Essouk, Ksar El Ghoula, and Ksar Ouled Meftah). Built in the 18th century CE, the west corner of the rectangular Ksar Ouled Abdallah (ca. 100 x 50 meters) is adjacent to the Sidi Ahmed Lahjel Mosque complex, which contains a domed marabout dedicated to the enshrined village founder. The ksar has one exterior entrance (east corner), marked by a concrete arch, and 108 ghorfas (ca. 50 in ruins) stacked primarily two stories high (three stories in some areas) with all original access doors removed. Some 50 ghorfas along the southeast and southwest walls have been restored. In particular, the southwest wall has been converted into a low-budget inn for tourists called Hôtel les Ghorfas (alternately: Ghorfa Hotel, Hotel el-Ghorfa), offering very basic accommodations in a dozen ghorfas (with installed wooden doors) and a souvenir shop. Reportedly established in 1986, Hôtel les Ghorfas is not officially closed despite the fact that it is barely operational, lacks consistent business hours, maintains no advertising, and attracts little to no clientele.
Jon Bradley Snyder (author/editor) reported on the principal Episode I recce to Tunisia (early to mid-December 1995) in Star Wars Insider 29 (Spring 1996). In his article (“On-Location: Tatooine”) Snyder published photos (taken by David West Reynolds) with generic captions for several of the Tunisian sites visited during the recce. No names or clear identifications were provided for any of the visually documented sites. Multi-faceted research confirms that one of the recce photos in the article (page 56; center row, left-hand side) displays the distinct northwest wall of Ksar Ouled Abdallah, characterized by five columns of ghorfas stacked three stories high with a uniquely shaped wide-entrance ghorfa in the center of the top row. Reynolds stood north of center in the courtyard just east of the lone tree at the site to take the recce photo. The last part of the caption associated with the photo reads: “This kind of architecture will be part of the look of Tatooine in the prequels.” The beam light featured in the photo above the wide-entrance top row ghorfa has been replaced/moved to the side of the same ghorfa. With the exception of this small detail, the ksar northwest wall (despite the lack of any real effort to preserve the site) remains more or less unchanged since the 1995 recce.