What Do Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Life of Brian Have in Common?

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Jan 03, 2020 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

What do Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Monty Python's Life of Brian have in common? I bet you were wracking your brain to remember if Harrison Ford was in Life of Brian (he wasn’t). No, it’s more geographic – all of them were filmed in Tunisia!

Tunisia, located on the Mediterranean in North Africa, has a rich and storied history. Tunisia was home to the Carthaginian Empire, a Mediterranean power like no other. Carthage and Rome fought many, many wars (the Punic Wars), which resulted in the destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C. Besides Rome, other strong cultural influences include the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and France, who all ruled Tunisia at one time or another.

Many visitors like the beautiful beaches, the ruins of Carthage and El Jem, several UNESCO World Heritage sites, and of course the capital, Tunis (love the souk!), and can easily discover Tunisia. But as some dedicated travelers know, Tunisia is a special place for movie buffs. Tunisia holds sway as possibly the most revered movie location in history – as the blockbusters Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Monty Python’s Life of Brian were all filmed there. Let’s see where travelers can go to experience these film sets themselves...

 What Do Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Life of Brian Have in Common?

Decorado Star Wars en Túnez. Wikimedia Commons: Certo Xornal, adapted by Wandering Educators

STAR WARS

Might as well start with the big one! But first, a little bit of happiness…

 

Interested? Me, too. While travelers can’t see two setting suns, as they can in Star Wars, they CAN visit several locations in the films. Let’s take a look…

La Grande Dune

Do you remember when C3PO and R2D2 were walking in the desert? Indeed. Head to southwest Tunisia, to Tozeur. About half an hour away (going toward Algeria) is the Grand Dune, where the droids landed, looked around, and split up, only to be reunited. You may also remember several desert stormtrooper scenes from this location. If you visit, you may stumble over some Kayt Dragon skeleton remains, as a few lucky travelers have.

Sahara Dunes, Tunisia

Sahara dunes. Wikimedia Commons: Elced77

Chott el Djerid

Head back from the Grande Dune the way you came, and you’ll see a small road. Near the end, you will see the uniquely-shaped Lars Homestead. It has been half buried by encroaching sand dunes, but restored by Star Wars fans! Chott el Jerid is actually part of the enormous dried salt lake flats that cover 5,000 sq km in this area.

Shubiel Gorge, Sidi Bouhlel

East of Tozeur, at the edge of Chott el Jerid, is the location of the Juntland Wastes, where the sandcrawler crashed, the Tusken Raiders showed, and the characters first see Mos Eisley.

Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia Desert canyon area notable for its use as a filming location for Star Wars as the canyon on the Planet Tatooine where R2-D2 is captured by Jawas

Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia Desert canyon area notable for its use as a filming location for Star Wars as the canyon on the Planet Tatooine where R2-D2 is captured by Jawas. Wikimedia Commons: Stefan Krasowski

Chott el Gharsa

In the middle of the Sahara are two ghost towns – built for the sole purpose of filming the movies! Here, you can find the Star Wars town of Mos Espa – buildings, pod racing track, strees, Sebulba’s Café, market, and more.

Mos Espa, Tunisia

Wikimedia Commons: Rais67

Mos Espa from the air, Tunisia

Wikimedia Commons: Wolkenkratzer

Just a few hundred yards away are large chunks of sandstone emerging from the sand. Called the Yardangs, this is where Qui-gon and Darth Maul dueled in Episode 1. A few kilometers away is a camel-head shaped rock, called Oung Jmel. You may recognize this from when Darth Maul landed and set some Sith probes to find Amidala’s ship, and for when he flew and chased Anakin and Qui-gon.

Camel Head Rock (Oung Jmel), Tunisia

Camel Head Rock (Oung Jmel). Wikimedia Commons: Rais67

Desert Rocket, original Star Wars set. Mos Espa, Tunisia

Desert Rocket, original Star Wars set. Wikimedia Commons: Eugenijus Radlinskas

Matmata

Here is where you’ll find the interior shots of the Lars Family Homestead. Look for signage about Les Troglodytes – an unusual style of underground dwellings. Want to sleep in one of these caves? Stay at the Hotel Sidi Driss.

Underground courtyard of Hotel Sidi Driss, Star Wars filming location. Tunisia

Underground courtyard of Hotel Sidi Driss, Star Wars filming location. Wikimedia Commons: Neil Rickards

Ksar Ouled Soltane

Just northwest of the (very real) city of Tataouine, you’ll see the small town of Ksar Ouled Soltane. Scenes of the slave quarters were filmed here.

Ksar Ouled Soltane. Star Wars Scenes of the slave quarters were filmed here. Tunisia

Ksar Ouled Soltane. Wikimedia Commons: Ian Sewell

Ajim

Located on the Island of Djerba, the port city of Ajim is home to several Star Wars film locations. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s house is a small, two-room fisherman’s storage shed on the Mediterranean. Also in Ajim are the Cantina, the Anchorhead, and several Mos Eisley locations.

Port Ajim on Jerba, abandoned house...and the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina. Tunisia

Port Ajim on Jerba, abandoned house...and the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina. Wikimedia Commons: Stefan Krasowski

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

All of the scenes that were set in Egypt were, in fact, filmed in Tunisia!

Kairouan

This is where the market and street scenes of Cairo (and Sallah’s house – a real house!) were filmed. Kairouan is inland from Monastir, on Tunisia’s east coast. Here is also where the scenes where Indiana Jones was dragged behind a truck were filmed.

Kairouan Medina. Setting of the Cairo Medina in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Kairouan Medina. Wikimedia Commons: Jerzystrzelecki

Doors, Kairouan Medina. Market and street scenes of Cairo filming location from Raiders of the Lost Ark

Doors, Kairouan Medina. Wikimedia Commons: Cimoi

Tozeur/ Sidi Bouhlel

Remember this from Star Wars? This is also the spot where Indiana Jones threatened to blow up the Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Ark of the Covenant Procession was filmed here, as was the archaeological digs of Tanis.

Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia Desert canyon area. Filming location from Raiders of the Lost Ark

Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia Desert canyon area. Wikimedia Commons: Stefan Krasowski

Nefta

Close to Chott el Djerid is the small town of Nefta. Here, the truck chase and the flying wing scenes were filmed.

Nefta. filming location from Raiders of the Lost Ark

Nefta. Wikimedia Commons: Jerzystrzelecki

LIFE OF BRIAN

The least extensive of these three blockbusters filmed in Tunisia, the production was shot on location in Monastir.

Monastir

Why? For a film about religious satire, the ability to reuse the sets from Jesus of Nazareth (1977) was a huge draw. When you visit Monastir, be sure to visit the Ribat, an ancient fortification that was featured in the film. While you stand there, be sure to say “Welease Woger!”

Ribat of Monastir. Film location from Monty Python's Life of Brian

Ribat of Monastir. Wikimedia Commons: Dennis Jarvis

Sousse

25 miles west of Monastir is the town of Sousse, whose city walls stood in for the walls of Jerusalem in the movie.

Sousse, Tunisia - setting for the walls of Jerusalem in Monty Python's Life of Brian

Wikimedia Commons: This photochrome print from around 1899 is from “Views of Architecture and People in Tunisia” in the catalog of the Detroit Photographic Company. It depicts the seaside town of Sousse, Tunisia, which, according to Baedeker’s The Mediterranean: Handbook for Travelers (1911), followed Tunis and Sfax as the third most important seaport in Tunisia.

Carthage

At the Roman theatre in Carthage, you’ll be able to reimagine the scene of Brian being recruited into the People’s Front of Judea, during a ‘children’s matinee’.

Roman Theatre, Carthage, Tunisia. Scenes from Monty Python's Life of Brian

Roman Theatre, Carthage. Wikimedia Commons: Mehdi Oualha

Matmata

The scenes of the Sermon on the Mount and the Crucifixion were shot at Matmata.

Matmata, Tunisia. Scenes from Monty Python's Life of Brian shot here

Matmata. Wikimedia Commons: Tico

 

Which of these three movies was your favorite? Where will you visit, first?

 

Note: this article was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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