When last we left the fictional city of Mos Espa, built in the Tunisian Desert for "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," it was under threat from a giant Pac-Man shaped sand dune called a 'barchan.' Moving at an estimated 50 feet per year, it wouldn't be long before it consumed the famed film set and robbed Tunisia of a popular tourist attraction - but only temporarily.
"Should the barchan that forms the focus of this paper overrun the Mos Espa set, many buildings will be temporarily buried," researchers monitoring the dune wrote in a study. "Their rather flimsy construction will mean roofs will likely collapse, degrading the attraction of the site when the dune moves on."
Not content to wait (especially in light of the next film in the scifi saga arriving soon), the Tunisian tourism ministry is looking to raise some $200,000 to keep Mos Espa from being swallowed by the desert and destroyed. The state has already committed $109,000 and is seeking private and public donations to reach their goal. To assist with the fundraising effort, the NGO CDTOS (Tourism Chamber for the Oasis and Sahara regions) has set up an Indiegogo drive to raise $45,000.
"The site, aside from being a prominent place of worship and pilgrimage for Star Wars fans from all over the world, the town of Mos Espa (Ong Jmel - Nafta), one of Tunisia's Highest cultural heritage sites, is of high importance to the local economy and global culture."
According to one official involved with the campaign, some work to protect the site has already started.
"We managed to remove 8,000 cubic metres of sand in 12 days," Nabil Gasmi told ABC. "Unfortunately some of the set has already collapsed."
If successful in raising the funds, ministry officials say their efforts could protect the site from the shifting dunes for another eight to 10 years.
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