KSAR HADADA
MOS ESPA SLAVE QUARTER III
(THE BALCONIES)

From Ksar Ouled Soltane my wife and I drove the ~25 km of rough road back to Tataouine. Just north of the town is a junction with a trunk road leading off to the ancient berber retreat of Ghomrassen. It was to here that we headed, climbing up the graded road into the Jebel Haouia and onto the high plateau that we could see from the main road between Medenine and Tataouine. Up in these hills there are countless valleys, each with their own fortresses (k'ala) and ksar. The one we were after was a couple of kilometres north of Ghomrassen so we didn't have any time to spend looking at the other Berber villages and ruins.

We winded our way through Ghomrassen which, on this Sunday, was a sleepy little village. But during the week it is all hustle and bustle as tourists come and go and locals use the banks, shops and market. Once through we climbed the last vestiges of the Jebel Haouia and onto the Dahar plateau. There, just ahead on the road, was the silver-domed mosque that marks the village of Hadada - place of the slave quarter's multi-leveled balconies.

Spotting a sign of rthe Hotel Ksar Hadada we followed the curving road around the back of the village and soon found ourselves parked outside its famous whitewashed gates adorned wih leaping gazelle. The village was empty - not a soul was to be seen (apart from the cafe owners across the road calling us over for refreshments - but they didn't count). The gates were wide open but no-one seemed to be attending the hotel so we walked in anyway.

Inside the ksar was a network of alleys. We didn't have a clue as to which part of the ksar we were looking for so I looked to that guiding force that had led me so well back in Ajim. I know it sounds corny, but what else was I to do? Within a matter of seconds we were walking down the main alley of the hotel and into a well lit courtyard. Suddenly the colours of the walls and the shape of the arches looked familiar! It was here that Lucas and McCallum had filmed the scenes of The Phantom Menace

Here, in this courtyard of confusing dimensions and steps that seem to lead to nowhere, the balconies of Mos Espa's slave quarter were set. It is supposed that they were either rooftop (based on the view when Qui-Gon cleanses Anakin's wound) or just above street level (from when Shmi watched Anakin fire up his podracer for the first time). In the picture below you can see that I am standing only a couple of feet away from where Qui-Gon spoke with Obi-Wan Kenobi about the problem of getting spare hyperdrive parts and the upcoming podrace.

You can also see that this same ledge was used for the scene when Shmi and Qui-Gon watched Anakin working on his podracer prior to the Boonta Eve race. In the movie it seems that they look on through the arch in the foreground. This is quite cleverly done because in actuality the set where Anakin, Jar Jar and Padme worked on the podracer is +400 km away! This small Mos Espa slave quarter set was built out in the desert on the Chott el-Gharsa (see Chott el-Gharsa II).

Compare the colour and shape of the archway in the right-hand photo to arch behind Padme. You can see that they are styled exactly the same. And if you stood in this arch at Hadada and looked up and left you'd see the landing which Qui-Gon and Shmi stood upon (above right).

Ksar Hadada was one of the most interesting buildings I'd ever been to. While Ksar Ouled Soltane was tranquil and airy, here there was a completely different atmosphere; one of hustle and bustle - even though there was nobody there.

Again all the set decoration was removed some time after filming was completed. Since it was a short shoot with limited angles there was very little decorations put up. This postcard, which I bought in a shop opposite the Hotel Ksar Hadada, shows some of the doors used to make the ksar more Tatooine-like. You can see in the bottom picture of the column of three photos above that they had been removed by the time that we visited. Where they have gone I do not know.

After an hour spent walking around these still and dusty corridors we decided we had to make a move. We still had to get to Matmata to visit the Holy Grail of Star Wars locations - the Hotel Sidi Driss.

Back on the road we had some decisions to make - the scenic route would take us across the Dahar, passed a handful of inhabited ksour and into Medenine via the back roads. Initially I had planned to take this less travelled picturesque drive but with the hours getting on and having already forked out for one spare wheel we knew we couldn't afford to take these unpaved tracks. So it was the way we came, through Ghomrassen and Medenine and onwards to Gabes.

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