The town is a must-see for tourists to Tunisia and, from early morning till late afternoon, bus load after bus load arrive in this small village. Matmata’s fame comes from the unusual houses – instead of building the houses, they were dug vertically into the ground.
Due to it’s extraordinary form, Matmata was the location for the disco scene in the first Star Wars film. Before you leave for Tunisia, try to see the film first, then you go on to experience Matmata.
Going down the Troglodytes
The dark entrance to a troglodyte house. A simple version of a troglodyte. Except the chalk and the blue doors, it has no ornamentation.Dark Entrance
Each house forms a circular crater that is really the courtyard of a family. You can actually stand on the edge and look down on them – and that is what most tourists do today.
Usually each crater is two stories deep, complete with doors, staircases and openings to nearby caves. But there are no windows.Brick Covered Walls
A fancier and more elaborated troglodyte. Note that the walls that have been covered in bricks and the vaulted doors.
Looking back from one of the rooms in a troglodyte. There is nothing from this angle that tells that it is any different from any other old type of rural house.Star Wars location
The Hotel Sidi Driss, which actually is easy to miss unless you search for it or have guide, was the location for the first Star Wars movie, and over again for the Attack of the Clones.
The owners have taken good care of the set props, of course because there is money to make from it. In reality, Matmata may be the only place in Tunisia, where a hotel is the main attraction.
Interior of troglodytes
Entrance to one of the rooms in the most authentic troglodyte hotel in Matmata.
It is quite possible to enter many of the houses. After you have walked down the dark passageway, you arrive in the courtyard – often strikingly white, and quite remote from any cave-feeling.
The decorations are about as simple and basic as you would expect, but always with a great understanding of artistry. Watch out for the vaulting of the ceilings, the round shelves cut directly into the walls, and the effective use of strong colours together with the chalked walls.
The landscape of Matmata is quite nice, with a couple of small table top mountains around it. Many areas appears to have been tested for creating new troglodytes, as they are unusually bumpy.
Hotels and Alternatives
Matmata is the place to stay the night, and you should aim for one of the hotels where you can spend the night in a real troglodyte. Sidi Driss is the location of the Star Wars movies, but Marhala is a much friendlier place.
Summer is very, very hot in Matmata.
If you’re not going with a tour group, try to explore Matmata in the early morning hours. Then the village is almost empty from other travellers and the morning sun light gives the troglodytes a dramatic appearance, which is lost through most of the day.