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Ksar Ouled Soltane: 15th century granary used as a slave quarters in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

David Goran

Located about 20 km south of the city of Tataouine, in southern Tunisia, Ksar Ouled Soltane is an attractive and well-preserved fortified granary (or ksar) spread out over two courtyards, built completely of cracked, dry mud by the Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa.

A fortified granary, built by Berber tribes. Photo Credit

A fortified granary, built by Berber tribes. Photo Credit

 

These stacked grain-holding buildings have survived the hot climate since the 15th century. Photo Credit

These stacked grain-holding buildings have survived the hot climate since the 15th century. Photo Credit

Ksar Ouled Soltane was originally built in the 15th century and had hundreds of granary cellars (called ghorfas) which, for five centuries, the nomadic tribes used them to store grain and olives.

The ghorfas are four stories high and have been restored to their original condition.

Ksar Ouled Soltane ghorfas. Photo Credit

Ksar Ouled Soltane ghorfas. Photo Credit

 

Multi-level ghorfas, as seen at Ksar Ouled Soltane in southern Tunisia. Photo Credit

Multi-level ghorfas, as seen at Ksar Ouled Soltane in southern Tunisia. Photo Credit

Many of the ghorfas are accessible by the steep steps that lead up from the courtyard floor. Photo Credit

Many of the ghorfas are accessible by the steep steps that lead up from the courtyard floor. Photo Credit

It was intentionally situated on top of a hill which made it easier to protect it from the raiders of the ancient world.

The two courtyards of Ksar Ouled Soltane, connected by a passage made of palm wood, offers some of the finest and best-preserved examples of ancient ksars in Tunisia. Later in the 19th century, the number of ghorfas increased to around 400.

Located on a hilltop, to help protect it from raiding parties in previous centuries. Photo Credit

Located on a hilltop, to help protect it from raiding parties in previous centuries. Photo Credit

 

Ksar courtyard. Photo Credit

Ksar courtyard. Photo Credit

The building was restored to its original state in 1997, although with cement rather than the original materials of mud and brick.

In the Middle Ages, granaries were often fortified to stop raids on a village's food supply. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

In the Middle Ages, granaries were often fortified to stop raids on a village’s food supply. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

Each ghorfas was assigned to and used by a single family. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

Each ghorfas was assigned to and used by a single family. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

This 15th-century granary was used during the summer of 1998 as a setting for the filming of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. It was used as futuristic slave quarters (a.k.a Mos Espa of planet Tatooine) where the Anakin Skywalker lived as a boy.

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Considered the most beautiful of the Ksour (plural of Ksar) in Tunisia, today it’s a tourist destination, with visitors coming to see its well-preserved granary vaults, imbued with the spirit of a past civilization.