Mos Espa – Tunisia - Atlas Obscura

Mos Espa

An abandoned film set location for a remote spaceport in a galaxy far, far away hides in the Tunisian desert. 


Sitting in the sands that separate two salt lakes, the enormous Chott El Djerid and smaller Chott El Gharsa, Mos Espa is an abandoned film set created as the location of a remote spaceport in a galaxy far, far away. The surreal setting and dramatic otherworldly structures make Mos Espa a “must-see” if you’re a Star Wars fan. However, it’s a great visit even if you’re not a fan of the films.

Being one of Star Wars’s major spaceports, Mos Epsa is shown in the movies as a town bustling with the daily life of different aliens from around the galaxy. Home to hero Anakin Skywalker from Episodes I, II, and III, we are told the location is on a remote planet known as Tatooine—named after the very real nearby Tunisian town, Tataouine. Here, Anakin and his mother live as slaves, and the foundations for all the vast storylines of the older Star Wars movies are laid.

Although some of the Mos Espa townsite was added in post-production using CGI, here on the edge of the Sahara, all of the major buildings from the movies are extant. Tens of structures line the main city streets, including many “Moisture Vaporators”— in Star Wars, these devices were used to harvest atmospheric humidity and obtain much-treasured water.

Currently, Mos Espa is being slowly engulfed by the sand that comes with each passing dust storm. Over the years, the harsh Sahara climate, moving sand dunes, and a trickle of tourists have started to take their toll. Unlike the other more traditional Star Wars filming locations, Mos Espa town was built in the middle of nowhere. Although nothing here was designed for permanence, thanks to the work of enthusiasts both local and foreign, you can still walk the streets that Qui-Gon Jinn walked to meet Anakin.


Know Before You Go

Mos Espa's location is remote, and in the desert. Bring a substantial amount of water (especially during summer). The easiest way to Mos Espa is via the newly reconstructed road—leaving the town of Naftah northward, pick the road that goes slightly left, and head north all the way till you reach the end (Mos Espa will be right in front of you).

There is another way, which is much more entertaining, but requires a knowledgeable guide and reliable 4x4 vehicle: go in a straight line from wherever you are, across the desert sands and dry salt-lake bed.

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August 8, 2019

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