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

Jack Beckett
Author: Asram CC BY SA3.0

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. Author: Asram  CC BY SA3.0

A fortified granary, built by Berber tribes. Author: Asram  CC BY SA3.0

 

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. Author: Ian Sewell  CC BY SA3.0

Ksar Ouled Soltane ghorfas. Author: Ian Sewell  CC BY SA3.0

 

Multi-level ghorfas, as seen at Ksar Ouled Soltane in southern Tunisia. Author: Andy Carvin CC BY SA3.0

Multi-level ghorfas, as seen at Ksar Ouled Soltane in southern Tunisia. Author: Andy Carvin CC BY SA3.0

Many of the ghorfas are accessible by the steep steps that lead up from the courtyard floor. Author: Asram CC BY SA3.0

Many of the ghorfas are accessible by the steep steps that lead up from the courtyard floor. Author: Asram CC BY SA3.0

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. Author: Panegyrics of Granovetter  CC-BY 2.0

Located on a hilltop, to help protect it from raiding parties in previous centuries. Author: Panegyrics of Granovetter  CC-BY 2.0

 

Ksar courtyard. Author: Ggeorgery   CC BY SA4.0  

Ksar courtyard. Author: Ggeorgery   CC BY SA4.0  

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.  Author: Asram CC BY SA3.0  

In the Middle Ages, granaries were often fortified to stop raids on a village’s food supply.  Author: Asram CC BY SA3.0  

Each ghorfas was assigned to and used by a single family. Author: Panegyrics of Granovetter  CC BY2.0

Each ghorfas was assigned to and used by a single family. Author: Panegyrics of Granovetter  CC BY2.0

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.

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.