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Tunisia is one of the most beautiful, historically rich countries located in Northern Africa. This nation may be home to some of the world's oldest Roman ruins, but its claim to fame remains the group of movie sets used to film scenes from the "Star Wars" series. When filming began in the late '70s, director George Lucas chose the deserts of Tunisia as the setting for the sand-based planet of Tatooine. Since 1977, each additional film in the "Star Wars" series has used sets in this country, which remain there to this day.
According to The Associated Press, the Tunisian National office for Tourism alongside local "Star Wars" fan clubs have partnered to open these areas to tourists and allow them to interact with buildings, structures and hotels used during the filming of the series. To kick off the region's new initiative and bring more tourists from regions around the globe, the organizations created a music video to Pharrell Williams' Academy Award-nominated song "Happy" featuring characters from the movies dancing to the beat.
"We did this campaign to take advantage of these sets which are unique in the world - the only sites from the movies remaining," said Zied Chargui, the director of the National Office of Tunisian Tourism, as quoted by the AP.
Take a trek through Tatooine
Travelers with a soft spot for "Star Wars" lore should consider embarking on an African tour in this country. Begin the adventure by dropping by the deserts of Matmata, a city known for its beautiful underground caves and troglodyte structures. In the first "Star Wars" movie, this city was home to Luke Skywalker's home he shared with his aunt and uncle. Tourists looking to catch a glimpse of this structure not only have the opportunity to step inside and tour the property, but spend the night as well, as the set now serves as a hotel for travelers.
For those who prefer idyllic landscapes as they reminisce through sets, consider venturing to Djerba, a small island near Tunisia where "Star Wars" fans will recognize Ben Kenobi's home and Toshi Station. After visiting these buildings, vacationers can spend the day lounging at one of the site's many luxurious beaches, or resting at five-star resorts near filming spots.
Mos Espa was built in the deserts of Tunisia to provide a setting for Tatooine citizens, including homes, shops, arenas and restaurants that would frequently be found in traditional towns. The majority of this city was built for scenes from the 1999 film "The Phantom Menace," and it still stands for tourists to explore. Travelers will recognize Watto's shop, where Anakin and Padmé first meet, or the Pod-racing arena, where Anakin wins a crucial victory against Sebulba.
Those who may not be up-to-date with their "Star Wars" knowledge can still appreciate the craftsmanship of the sets, along with the stunning views provided by Tunisian locations.
Rummage through ancient Roman ruins
After experiencing the essential "Star Wars" tour, be sure to visit the country's most famous and breathtakingly beautiful historical sites. The region was once home to several cities that thrived during the Roman Empire, including Carthage and Tunis. While these areas are sparsely populated today, they remain some of the most popular areas for tourists, as they provide an in-depth look into how Tunisian citizens survived thousands of years ago. Carthage may stand in ruins, but the former capital of the Phoenician government sits against one of the most beautiful backdrops in the country. Situated near the Mediterranean Sea, travelers can wind through corridors, buildings and walkways as they appreciate the calming waters behind the city.
Tailor your trip to iconic movie locations
Tunisia may be one of the only countries to actively promote tourism geared toward movie sets, but several other regions across the world have provided the backdrop for some of the most critically-renowned films. Asia, for example, has housed movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "The Dark Knight." According to the Internet Movie Database, "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" was filmed in Thailand. Travelers who have a passion for "Star Wars" and visiting locations where these films were shot should consider a tour of Thailand, as well.
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