Who would believe it? It snowed on us in the Sahara!
Tunisia 13/ Feb/1979 to 20/ Feb /1979
18 February 1979
Whist we were preparing to camp at a small village, with some strange houses. At the time I did not know that it was so strange for it to snow. Nightime temperatures frequently fall below zero. This article shows how rare it was. Another confirms this. (Sorry, at time of writing the website does not display correctly, arrow right to another article on that website and then arrow back. That should have sorted it.) The only recorded time it snowed in the Sahara lowlands was apparently the 18th February 1979. I recall that we were in Tunisia in February, and this confirms that the 18th was the night we camped in Matmata. You can still see the remnants of the snow in the photo.
I seem to recall that this was the first time some of the team had seen snow falling. It was a proper snow storm, not just a little flurry which barely settled. We had all seen snow before on this trip, in the Alps, but not blowing in the wind, reducing visibility, perhaps even blizzard like. Only lasted for a short while but it was special.
Now I find out that Star Wars was there before us.
Other film haunts include the lunar-like desert-scape and subterranean settlement of Matmata, a village seen in the very first Star Wars film – Episode IV: A New Hope. As an otherworldly labyrinth of rock-hewn troglodyte dwellings looped around a deep-sunken courtyard Matmata is deserving of international stardom as an exotic “planet” found on earth. After checking out the Stars Wars props in the desert, movie fans can stay in Luke Skywalker’s home - now the Hotel Sidi Driss – where a Star Wars bar is crammed with film set memorabilia.
The inhabitants of the village seemed very friendly and were happy to accommodate our staying in their village. Some in the andjacent traditional Berber troglodyte underground building. Perhaps, with hindsight, it was partly due to the western exposure from the film crew. There was no evidence of the tourism which has developed since the Star Wars link, added to the area generally becoming more accessible.
How things have changed. Read the Dec 2015 article in the Guardian, Star Wars abandoned Tunisian locations in pictures.
Another claim to fame now, Matmata and the nearby Toujane have both been used in some of the Call of Duty computer games.
Map of North Africa approximate route zoomed in to Matmata. Zoom in more to see the troglodyte underground buildings.