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The Hotel Sidi Driss, a traditional Berber troglodyte underground building in the village of Matmata, Tunisia. The hotel served as the home of Luke Skywalker on the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars movies. Note the remaining set pieces incorporated into the walls.

Matmâta or Metmata is a small Berber speaking town in southern Tunisia. Some of the local Berber residents live in traditional underground "troglodyte" structures.

The structures typical for the village are created by digging a large pit in the ground. Around the perimeter of this pit artificial caves are then dug to be used as rooms, with some homes comprising multiple pits, connected by trench-like passageways. This type of home was made famous by serving as the location of the Lars Homestead, home to Luke Skywalker, his Aunt Beru Lars and Uncle Owen Lars for the Star Wars movies. The Lars Homestead was in fact the Hotel Sidi Driss, which offers traditional troglodyte accommodations. One of Call of Duty 2 missions takes place in Matmâta as part of North African Campaign.

Contents

History

Troglodyte house
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Ancient history

The history of this extraordinary place is not known, except from tales carried from generation to generation. The most probable one says that underground homes were first built in ancient times, when the Roman empire sent two Egyptian tribes to make their own homes in the Matmata region, after one of the Punic wars, with permission to kill every human being in their way. The dwellers of the region had to leave their homes and to dig caves in the ground to hide from those invaders, but they left their underground shelters in the night to attack invaders, which appeared to be very effective in sending the killer groups away from Matmata. A myth was made those days, that monsters emerge from beneath the ground and kill land usurpers. In any case, the underground settlements remained hidden in very hostile area for centuries, and no one had any knowledge of their existence until 1967.

The way of survival in those severe conditions was difficult: since Tunisia is famous for massive olive oil production, the men went searching for work north of the villages every spring, when the olive season began, getting back home in autumn, when the season was over. They were usually paid in olive oil, which they traded for other goods (in present days for money), and thus provided enough food, clothes and other things for normal life of their families.

Modern rediscovery

It was not generally known until 1967 that there were regular settlements in this area besides wandering nomad tribes. That year, intensive rains that lasted for 22 days innundated the troglodyte homes and caused many of them to collapse. In order to get help from the authorities, a delegation was sent to the community center of the region in the town of Gabes. The visit came as a surprise, but help was provided, and the above ground settlement of Matmata was built. However, most of the people continued their lives in re-built underground homes, and only a few of the families moved to the new surface dwellings.

Today, Matmata is a well-known tourist attraction, and most of the population lives on tourism and folklore exhibitions in their homes.

External links

Coordinates: 33°32′33.5″N 09°58′0.5″E / 33.542639°N 9.966806°E / 33.542639; 9.966806


Redirecting to Matmâta


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Matmata is a village in the south of Tunisia, famous for its troglodyte (cave) dwellings. Scenes from a number of Star Wars movies were filmed here.

The Hotel Sidi Driss, home to Luke Skywalker.
The Hotel Sidi Driss, home to Luke Skywalker.
  • There are regular daytime services by louage (shared taxi) or bus (8 daily) from Gabes (40 km north-east).
  • A daily bus service runs to Tunis (450 km) via Sfax and Sousse.
  • By car - Matmata lies about 45min inland (south-west) from Gabes on a sealed road. Douz lies about 1hr 30min to the west.
  • The Hotel Sidi Driss, where scenes from the Lars homestead in Star Wars were filmed. Accommodation is simple (the bedrooms are formed from individual caves hollowed out from the rock, with shared bathroom facilities), but unique; visit for a day trip or spend the night (see below).
  • Ask your hotel if they can arrange a tour of a traditional troglodyte (cave) dwelling; many such properties are located around the village and are today still inhabited by local families.
  • There is a small museum behind the Hotel Sidi Driss, displaying local history.
  • The stone village of Tamezret, 10km west of town on the Douz road makes an interesting side trip.
  • The Hotel Sidi Driss (6070 Matmata Ancienne, +216 (0)75 240 005) is the must-stay location in Matmata for any Star Wars fanatics. The hotel has about 20 rooms / caves, shared bathroom facilities and a restaurant and small bar. From US$10/night per person including breakfast.
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