Take a short drive into the desert from Tozeur in southern Tunisia, and the Star Wars town of Mos Espa will pop out to surprise you.
Mos Espa, on the planet Tatooine, was the home of the young Anakin Skywalker, later to become Darth Vader. It featured in The Phantom Menace, “Episode I” of the Jedi saga.
I say unexpected, but of course it isn’t at all. It is an established destination on the tourist trail in this part of Tunisia.
But time your visit well and you can have the place pretty much to yourself. Even if you are not a Star Wars aficionado, it is worth the trip. I love the surrounding desert scenery, and it’s fascinating to study the structure of the buildings, many of which are just facades.
There may soon be a surprise in store, mind you. Future tourists may well arrive to find Mos Espa gone. The surrounding sand dunes are encroaching on the colony at a rate of 15 metres a year. Indeed, part of a nearby set used in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope has already been overrun by sand. Scientists have used the dwellings as a fixed geographic reference to measure the migration of giant wind-blown crescent-shaped dunes, or barchans. Their study indicates that dune movements on Earth are 10 times faster than similar barchans on Mars.
So if you fancy seeing Mos Espa in the flesh, go soon; the sand is already encroaching on Qui-Gon’s Alley, apparently. A gritty problem, I’m sure you’ll agree.
In the news: Star Wars threatened by dune.