Although the premise of Star Wars is that of intergalactic adventures and drama in a galaxy far, far away, the filming and set construction is of a more terrestrial origin. While much of the movie was filmed using stages and special effects, no amount of 1970s technological wizardry could create a set realistic enough to make people believe they were watching a scene on a barren planet. For that, they needed to find somewhere on Earth barren enough.
Tatooine, the iconic desert planet that serves as the homeworld of Luke and Anakin Skywalker, plays an important role in the history of the Star Wars universe and the plots of the films. To recreate the appearance of a planet so dry that the inhabitants set up water collection stations to pull moisture out of the air, George Lucas and company headed to Tunisia and the northern reaches of the Sahara Desert.
In early drafts of Star Wars, the planet was originally named Utapau, but by the time the final draft was written, Lucas had adapted the name from a town in southern Tunisia called Tataouine. Despite decades out in the desert, most of the manufactured sets remain entirely intact. Furthermore, many of the sets were actually constructions from past civilizations in Tunisia—such as fortified granaries that make appearances in the series as Tatooine dwellings. The combination of the dry climate and locals actively preserving the sets to generate income from tourists will ensure that they remain well-kept and the historic sites intact for the foreseeable future.
Image courtesy of Lucas Films.