Rather than “a hive of scum and villainy,” a loathsome place described by Sta Wars character Obi Wan played by the polite and shrewd Alec Guinness, the area on the other side of the water isn’t bad, just more desert-like and free of tourists.
Getting a van to Matmata isn’t straight forward so in a hurry I jumped in a taxi van and got him to take me to Medinine, the nearest big city on the way.
I only saw this briefly, as I got to a coffee shop with a toilet and wifi that I could use to plan the next ad hoc bit to Matmata. People here are friendly, and a young lad called Mohammed who spoke English gave me some help on how to get there.
Now I realise this place has these cosy looking Berber houses, which were used in Star Wars the Phantom Menace, but I’m guessing they could be a bit embarrassed about that now.
That afternoon, I was looking to find someone to pilot a ship and take me to a place I watched in my childhood, Mohammed and his father got to drive me in their Peugeot van all the way to Matmata. We agreed on a price of 50 Dinar (£13) and after triple-checking, it would be 50 and absolutely no more, we set off, and got some diesel on the way, which then they asked for another 10 for fuel… sigh… Then the van came up with a dashboard error about ‘malfunctions des motor’ or something like that.
After a couple of checks and some unknown fiddling under the bonnet, we were off.
Only another big decision to be made, there are actually TWO Matmatas, which one has the legendary original Star Wars set? Mohammed and Baba didn’t actually know.
1. Plans – 2. French Connection – 3. My hotel in Djerba – 4. El Griba synagogue outside – 5. El Griba synagogue inside – 6. Markets – 7. Christianity in Tunisia – 8. Ferry to mainland Tunisia – 9. Getting to Matmata, Tunisia – 10. Sidi Idris Hotel New Hope Star Wars filmset – 11. Secrets I learnt about the famous Matmata Star Wars set – 12. Cave homes for would-be Jedis – 13. More what you don’t see in Star Wars at Hotel Sidi Idris – 14. How hospitable is Sidi Idris? – 15. ATM machines and drought – 16. Matmata Nouvelle (New Matmata) – 17. Tunisian butchers and fisherman – 18. Libyan and Algerian neighbours – 19. Jewellery businesses in Djerba – 20. Tunisia and Israel relations – 21. Hara Kebira, Jewish school, soap and TV repair shops – 22. Jewish community of Hara Kebira – 23. Going home