Photo Series Visits Abandoned Star Wars Film Sets in the Tunisian Desert


In September 2010, visual artist and filmmaker Rä di Martino set out on a quest to photograph and document old abandoned film sets in the North African deserts. The project had started when she discovered that it was common practice to abandon these sets without tearing them down, leaving them fully intact and crumbling over time, like archeological ruins.

Martino spent that month traveling around Chott el Djerid in Tunisia, finding and photographing three Star Wars sets in all for her photo series No More Stars and Every World’s a Stage.

Actually finding the sets wasn’t as easy as you might think. At first, Martino had only Google Maps as her guide, and when you’re in the desert, that just won’t do. It was only after a chance encounter with a driver who knew the desert well and a detour to ask directions at a police station that she finally stumbled upon her subject.

After finally reaching the so-called “ruins” of Luke Skywalker’s childhood, Martino spent the morning shooting on both digital and film, surprisingly moved by the memories of her own childhood that the set brought to the surface:













Interestingly enough, after the photos were published, Star Wars fans annoyed with the disheveled state of Skywalker’s fictional home spent $11,000 and worked with locals to restore the old set. Now tourists who are brave enough to explore the Tunisian desert may find themselves in a pristine slice of Tatooine history if they’re lucky.

To see more from Martino, including more photos from other well-known and abandoned film sets, check out her website here.

(via Laughing Squid)

Image credits: Photographs by Rä di Martino and used with permission.

  • Rob S

    That is quite possibly one of the coolest photo projects I have seen. I actually like the old “ruins” better. It makes it seem more real to me. Like it was “Long Ago.”

  • Scott Hutchinson

    These are the sets from Episodes 1-3, but still pretty cool.

  • Ronald Ford

    Wouldn’t that be episodes 4, 5 and maybe some of 1

  • Scott M

    The ultimate Trash The Dress location!!!

  • agour

    You can get tours to all of those places from Tunis, nearly went a few years back

  • Mike Scholle

    Hollywood hypocrites that try to shame us for social issues like global warming and fracking. But apparently it’s perfectly okay for them to leave their trashed sets in the desert for future generations to have to deal with.

  • 54235356

    its woods and clay moron…..

  • Zta

    It’s trash and it’s not supposed to be left in nature like that.

  • D4

    Was thinking the same thing, cool photo project but sick that hollywood would do this…

  • Igor Ken


  • derek

    may the force be with you

  • snapshot1

    Yeah that’s what THEY do….yeah Hollywood all of them….them all shaming and shaming and telling us what to do…get out of my brain Hollywood…need…must find….tinfoil….aarghhhhh…..

  • Jake

    “A chance encounter with a driver who knew the desert”?? I was there, actually in August 2010, and there was no shortage of drivers who would have been happy to show us all the Star Wars ruins. And even at the time, there appeared to be a thriving tour bus industry built on taking Europeans and Americans around to the sites. (The Skywalker house is still a functioning hotel and bar with lots of memorabilia.)

  • Dave

    This negligence does not make fracking and global warming a good thing all of a sudden.

  • DavidTyree

    Hear hear, Mike. What a bunch of crap. Throw them away properly unless the landowner or Tunisia wants them there.

  • Alan Dove

    Right, because destroying the entire planet is exactly equivalent to leaving a small pile of largely biodegradable materials in a desert.

  • Flaypad Chadkey

    I am so attached to my own ego and self-righteousness that even when
    reading non-political news I CANNOT let go of my political opinions. I MUST
    make insults and engage in political argument!!! THAT group is evil. I am
    American in the correct, superior way.

  • Sim

    The Empire was here…

  • Bijou Clochard

    We published a book in 2011 about our visit to “Tatooine.” We welcome you to check out “Stars of the Desert,” our a cross-country trip through Tunisia,
    stopping along the way to explore the many film locations used in the
    saga. Through a series of photographs and informative insider
    tips, visit the beautiful island of Djerba (site of the “Mos Eisley
    Cantina”), spend a night underground at “Luke Skywalker’s home” in
    Matmata, glide across the Chott el-Jerid salt flat desert and journey to
    the completely in-tact city of “Mos Espa.” And that’s just for
    starters! We’re also really proud of our “Set of Drifters” video series on Tunisia (including many of these Star Wars sites). You can see them on our “Set of Drifters” YouTube channel. Enjoy!

  • Steve Hughes

    So if you take one of the props, thats been disregarded by hollywood and LEFT behind. Took it back home (somehow) wonder how much you would get from a SW nerd on ebay ;)

  • Adikat

    I can’t believe that set wasn’t dismantled and cleaned up. It is now environmental pollution. That’s terrible. You just don’t leave things like that.

  • martin

    You do realise, Im sure, that these ruins are from 1977 or thereabouts, and that global warming wasn’t a great issue at the time.

    And to compare a few clay and wood houses to fracking and general denial of global warming is…well – out of proportion.

  • agour

    actually it’s proved to be a good tourist spot, making the locals money for years and years. It’s a good thing they left it there

  • Philip Han

    I took a trip to Tunisia a decade ago and got to see where they shot the scenes of the race in Episode 1. It was breathtaking.

  • Joe Philipson

    Were bodies of Luke’s aunt and uncle still there?

  • Jake

    It has a chance to decompose naturally out there, as opposed to being compressed in a landfill. shut your hippy mouth

  • Mr. Warplight

    Okay lets get this straight:

    Sad: Hollywood left a buncha set stuff lying around in the desert.

    Real: It’s a desert. The environmental impact is insignificant at best.

    Nature: damn near the entire set was made with wood and clay. In another 50 years, what is left, if anything at all, will be buried beneath the sands.

    Funny: In 100 or so years, when nobody even knows the phrase ‘star wars’ someone is gonna come across these ruins and think ‘ANCIENT ALIENS!’ or some other such brouhaha.

  • larry

    And these bastards get away not having to clean up the debris left behind. That’s ashamed.

  • pat

    Why don’t they have to clean up the messes they make. It’s not right to leave that mess. Humans!

  • Tom Squires

    This is shameful that these filmmakers could just leave their trash behind.
    There should be a mechanism to provide minimum $100,000 fines for this behaviour.