Posted by: travelrat | August 18, 2008

Matmata: The Cave Dwellings

Desert Safari Day 1 (continued)

Matmata, 12th June 2008.


They describe the cave houses at Matmata  as ‘troglodyte dwellings’. I don’t really like the word ‘troglodyte’, for I’ve heard it used so often as an insult. But ‘cave dwellers’ isn’t much better, and I don’t know any other words.

One of these houses was, famously, used as Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars. But, this isn’t the one used in the film. I’d just been reading Long Way Down, in which Ewan McGregor had described his ‘pilgrimage’ to it. You may remember, he played the part of Obi-wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, and felt he ought to make a visit, even though he was only six years old at the time the original film was made.

In the book, he reported that the actual house had been left as a movie set, and the nearby stalls were selling Star Wars souvenirs as well as Tunisian ones.

But, we’re not going there, said the guide. You’ve come to see Tunisia, not Hollywood!

The cave houses are the traditional dwellings of the Berber people, and the house he took us to was really rather pleasant, and, if it wasn’t for the lack of electricity and water, I wouldn’t have minded living there myself. A motherly Berber lady showed us around, and offered bread, olive oil and almonds … a Berber tradition, the guide said. And, in accordance with Berber tradition, most of us left a few small coins.


I joked that the cave home was just for show, and the lady probable lived in a modern house nearby. The guide said I was quite correct. The Berber people used to live in those cave houses but, like anyone else, like their televisions, dishwashers and such. But they have preserved their former homes, and, like many people throughout the world, are very keen to show how they used to live.



  1. Can you imagine actually living in one? Such a fascinating way of life. I really enjoyed reading about this.

  2. Is it bad to say that you don’t strike me as a rabid ‘Star Wars’ fan? I just can’t see you talking about light speed, the Death Star, and use of The Force.

  3. I’m not … otherwise, I would have insisted on being taken to the ‘Luke Skywalker’ cave. But, I have long been interested in the special effects of such films, and usually sit though them, wondering ‘How the hell did they do that?’

    Other films … I often think to myself ‘That’s nice! Where was it made? and sometimes sit through the credits to find out.

    May the Force be with you!


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