Somewhere in Tunisia, at the gates of the Sahara, Matmata is situated. This place hasn’t been known for at least 1000 years. It’s no wonder because there’s nothing special, only a barren, semi-desert landscape.
But then again, this place is visited by hundreds of tourists every Day, who are warmly welcomed by tourists agencies and locals.
Matmata owes its popularity to George Lucas, who located here Star Wars hero’s home – Luke Skywalker, in a one of the underground hotels. Lucas derived the inspiration from the ancient Berbers’ settlement who had hid there from Arab invaders in 11th century.
If it hadn’t been for the flood which occurred there in 1967 and caused extensive damage to Berbers’ houses this place wouldn’t have been discovered.
But Matmata isn’t a simple village just as Berbers aren’t a simple tribe. They’re troglodytes who live in the underground houses. Entrances to their homes are protected by paintings of “Fatima’s hands” and fish. Fish symbolize family happiness and Fatima’s hands protect it from troubles.
Houses are carved in a soft sandstone and keep steady temperature of 20-22 Celsius degrees. So in summer there’s a pleasant cool and warm in winter. Construction is very cheap as there’s plenty of sandstone in the desert. The carving process lasts only several months and additionally “apartments” can be extended any time.
In front of Berbers’ house are small courtyard in the shape of a circle. It’s the most important part of the house where people spend most time of the day.
Underground houses consist of narrow corridors which connect basic rooms: kitchen, pantry and bedroom.
„Interior design” and equipment are very modest but enough. Furniture like: shelves or tables are carved from stone.
Walls are decorated with carpets, pictures and signs of above mentioned fish.
It may seem that Berbers live far away from civilization but most of the houses is equipped with electricity and water or even satellite dishes.
Currently only 1% of them live in Tunisia usually in normal houses. A little bit farther deeply into Sahara, in the middle of nowhere, it’s another place, well known for every Star Wars fan.
It’s the Mos Eisley. It’s unfortunately damaged by adverse desert conditions but most of the buildings can be easily recognized.
Our trip to the Star Wars world turned out to be a one big war with a sand. As I mentioned it several times, we always attract a bad weather in an unexplained way. That time we had an unrepeatable opportunity to see how sandstorm looks like.
The sand was everywhere, it got into the eyes and it was very hard to breath. Sometimes the wind was so strong that the day changed into the night.
It wasn’t easy to see anything event the big rock in the shape of a camel – the place where Carth Maul comes to Tatooine and send Sith Probes in the search of Queen Amidala’s ship.