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Tatooine needs you! Help Tunisia save a piece of ‘Star Wars’ lore

Tunisian tourism groups are betting the force of "Star Wars" fans can help them save the one-time desert home of Anakin Skywalker.

Hey, that's not a droid! Tourism Chamber for the Oasis and Sahara regions

While much of modern moviemaking takes place on sound stages and inside powerful computers, some films are still films shot onsite using elaborate sets. Take the home of Anakin Skywalker in "The Phantom Menace." That fictional desert community known as Mos Espa was created in the Tunisian desert in an area called Ong Jmel. As we reported last year, scientists have for years tracked the movement of sand dunes that are threatening to engulf a site that's become something of magnet for geeks everywhere.

As proof of the site's popularity, in a nearby section of the desert known as Chott el Gharsa, an independent group raised funds and restored Luke Skywalker's fictional home in 2012.

Now the Tunisian tourism ministry is getting on the "Save Mos Espa" bandwagon (or should I say, landspeeder?) with a campaign aimed at preserving this integral part of sci-fi history. It's looking to raise 300,000 Tunisian dinars (about $189,000) to keep the Mos Espa from being swallowed by the desert like a sarlacc swallowing a ne'er-do-well bounty hunter.

As part of that campaign, the NGO CDTOS (Tourism Chamber for the Oasis and Sahara regions) has set up an Indiegogo drive to raise $45,000. Donations are available in denominations of $25, $100, and $1,000, which earn you the titles of Padawan, Jedi, and Master Jedi respectively. Master Jedis will also have their name engraved on a "special commemorative panel" near the site.

"Mos Epsa is located in a very windy region, threatened by sand dunes which the wind moves by around 15 meters a year. One dune has already buried 10 percent of the site," said Nabil Gasmi, from one of the associated tourism groups, as reported by "We managed to remove 8,000 cubic meters of sand in 12 days. Unfortunately some of the set has already collapsed," he said, referring to the fact that work to salvage the site began on March 23.

If the ministry is successful in meeting its funding goal, it should be able to protect the set for another 8 to 10 years, as the dunes never cease their relentless attack. Kind of like the Empire itself, eh?