Sci-fi comes to life

Six stewards of the sands recently embarked on a weeklong journey to Tunisia -- the majestic landscape featured in various "Star Wars" movies as the fictional planet Tatooine -- to repair Luke Skywalker's home, also known in the movies as the Lars family homestead. The team included "Star Wars" superfans from around the world -- Mark Dermul, Mark Cox, Terry Cooper, Robert Cunningham, Imanuel Dijk, and Michel Verpoorten.

Before arriving, the Save Lars group visited the mountain range Jebel Krefane (near the village of Bouhlel), which served as the backdrop for several scenes, such as when the Jawas captured R2-D2, Tuskens attacked Luke, and when we first met Obi-Wan Kenobi.

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Ghost town

After the canyon visit, the band of men visited Oungjemel (also referred to as Camel Head Rock), the location known in the prequel trilogy as Mos Espa. Thankfully, the Tunisian government takes care of this area, according to the Save Lars group.
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Home in disarray

The original broken-down state of the Lars homestead, referred to as "the igloo" among the peers, would make any "Star Wars" fan gasp. The Save Lars group snapped this picture as a reminder of the state of the makeshift hut before the renovations. The official diary notes that "many of the plastered parts were not salvageable and would need to be replaced completely. But luckily the inner structure -- the wooden skeleton -- was still mostly intact and would only need reinforcing only in a couple of places."
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Surveying the damage

After Save Lars obtained the appropriate permit from the National Office of Tunisian Tourism in Tozeur, the country required the group to use a local contractor, tools, materials, and labor for the project. In this photo, a contractor visits the Lars homestead site to calculate what's needed for a full repair.
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Breaking down walls

As they say, what goes up must come down. The old plaster on the surrounding walls came down to make way for a completely new and much stronger wall.
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Rebuilding stairs

Unable to withstand the test of time and daunting desert sands, the stairs leading into the Lars homestead also needed repairing. According to the Save Lars diary, "This is not a desert with regular sand that you can just shovel out. It is hard-packed sand with salt, and a pickax was needed, as was a lot of muscle." Furthermore, the sun fell hard upon all involved with the restoration, as temperatures after noon easily reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Making things right

Working alongside local builders, the Save Lars group applied new wood panels around the base of the hut and attached chicken wire (which holds the plaster in place).
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Home security

To enhance the realistic appearance of the Lars homestead, the team installed a mock security panel (an exact replica from "A New Hope") alongside the entrance, which will surely delight future visitors.
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Almost there...

The Save Lars fellows saved sand from all of the "Star Wars" filming locations they visited in Tunisia and mixed it in with the cement used to restore the Lars homestead walls.
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Fresh paint

With the stairs completed, the group adds 300 wood panels to the interior door as seen in the "Star Wars" movies. Another person works on the white paint job for the entire facade of the hut.
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For future generations

Near the Lars homestead, a commemorative plaque has this quote in several languages: "In 2011, fans from around the world donated $10,000 to have this icon movie location restored to its full glory, as it can be seen in the world famous Star Wars saga. We kindly request you respect this location and help us to ensure it stays intact for future generations of visitors. For more information on this project, please visit our website, www.savelars.com." A supplementary QR code also directs to the same Web site.
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The finished product

The Lars homestead as it stands after renovations. The day after finishing the project, the eclectic group visited the location one more time to see how the five gallons of paint appeared after drying. As the diary recollects, "Since they had left her a shining white -- allowing the weather to do the… err… weathering -- it could already be seen from seven kilometres away!"
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A closer look

A closeup of the finished doorway to the hut.
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Inside the Lars home

After the final visit to the restored Lars homestead, the group traveled to the original interior of the home (located 250 miles away from the actual hut) in Matmata and now known as Hotel Sidi Driss. The group had a few words to say about the place in their official diary. "The Sidi Driss is a wonderful place and the owners realize the importance of it for tourism. The troglodyte hotel contains five pits. Three with sleeping quarters, one with dining quarters and the fifth pit is now something of a museum. All the Star Wars set dressing still in place (although painted over more times than anyone would his kitchen back home) and immediately immerses visitors into that galaxy far, far away."
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Obi-Wan's home

After eating lunch at the Sidi Driss, the Save Lars crew visited a few other famous "Star Wars" scenes, including Obi-Wan Kenobi's house located on the Tunisian island of Jerba.
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Chalmun's Cantina

Who can forget the cantina full of scum and villainy featured in "Star Wars: A New Hope"? You may also remember it as the location where we see Han Solo and Chewbacca for the first time, and where Greedo met his demise. Now surrounded by apartment buildings, this worn-down building once served as a bakery.

For still more of the Lars homestead restoration journey, check out the supplementary videos shot during each day of the trip.

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