In 2010 Mark Dermul from Belgium led a tour of the remaining Star Wars relics scattered throughout Tunisia’s desert. It wasn’t the first time he had visited these sites, but on this particular occasion, accompanied by fans from around the world, he was dismayed to find Luke Skywalker’s Lars Homestead featured in Episode IV: A New Hope in a state of total disrepair. Thus began an epic journey to restore this small rounded hut (reminiscent of Tunisia’s troglodytes) to its former glory.
After his last visit, Dermul appealed to Star Wars fans on Facebook to help him restore the hut in Tunisia. To his surprise, he received an outpouring of support. In sum, he and his friends managed to raise $11,700 from 425 faithful contributors.
At this stage, what was originally a lofty joke became a serious venture and Dermul approached the local tourism authorities for permission to alter the building. The Jasmine Revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings put this process on hold, and the Save the Lars Homestead team worried that the project would be derailed after all.
But in December 2011, the newly-installed government gave the go-ahead, and in May this year Dermul traveled with four friends to repair the crumbling building using cement infill and white paint sourced from local providers.
George Lucas and his production team built the Star Wars set in Southern Tunisia in the 1970s, bringing worldwide attention to a once-dominant Mediterranean country perhaps for the first time in modern history.
The Berbers who mostly occupy the desert region don’t always welcome the subsequent attention, as their towns have been overridden with buses of tourists, but certainly the influx has some economic benefits.
This new wave of attention could bring much-needed revenue, but travelers should be cautioned to pay deep respect to the locals who call the desert home.
All photos via Mark Dermul / savelars.com