If you like to travel, have a penchant for unique locations, and happen to be a diehard Star Wars fan, look no further for your next vacation than the Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, Tunisia. For around $20 per night, you can escape the confines of earth and while away the hours on Tatooine, living just as Luke Skywalker did long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Matmata is located about 300 miles (500 km) south of Tunis. It has a population of slightly more than 2,000 people. Prior to 1969, few outside Matmata were even aware of the community’s existence. When intense rains that lasted for 22 days caused many of the homes to collapse, the community sent a delegation to Gabès, some 40 miles (66 km) away, asking for help. The revelation of the community was a surprise, but authorities quickly responded with assistance to the devastated community.
Just a few years later, George Lucas chose Matmata as the location to shoot scenes for the first Star Wars movie, Star Wars IV: A New Hope. The traditional structures, carved out of troglodyte caves, captured his vision for the desert planet Tatooine, the home of Luke Skywalker.
Filming Star Wars in Tunisia was a definite boost to the economy, even though it nearly sparked a war with Libya. The benefit did not end when the scenes were completed. Residents of Matmata continue to benefit from the franchise’s popularity to this day.
The Hotel Sidi Driss occupies the site where scenes from Luke Skywalker’s home were filmed. Little has changed from 1976 when Mark Hamill and the cast and crew created the sci-fi classic. Although Star Wars has futuristic technology, the movie’s opening words tell us that the events took place “long, long ago.” The amenities of the hotel reflect this aspect, as well.
Hotel Sidi Driss allows you to experience life underground in your own private grotto. The main reception is connected to 20 separate guestrooms via a series of echoing corridors and a circular courtyard. Reservations start at about $20 per night. Included with the room is a traditional breakfast in the same dining room where Luke Skywalker dined with his uncle and aunt.
The hotel’s website advertises “natural air conditioning.” Without further explanation, we can assume this means that there is none. For Tunis, the daily average maximum temperature in January is 16° C (61° F), but in June, the average maximum is 31° C (88° F). The fact that the rooms are caves will, no doubt, provide some measure of comfort from the sweltering heat.
One reviewer on TripAdvisor.com offered this caution, “Make sure that your enthusiasm for Star Wars doesn’t get in the way of understanding what you are getting yourself into here… The shared bathrooms… let’s just say that smelling them from afar was enough, I couldn’t go any closer.”