The Cave Homes of Matmâta

Useful Information

Location: Matmâta, Tunisia. Follow road southwest out of Gabes, which leads to New Matmâta. 450 km south of Tunis, 43 km south of Gabes, 60 km west of Medenine. (33° 32' 26" N, 9° 57' 59" E)
Classification: SubterraneaHöhlenwohnungen
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



Matmata cave house. Public Domain.

On the slope of a hill the cave village of Matmâta is located. At this place the Berber people dig their homes out of the ground for more than 1000 years. There are more than 100 underground houses, there is even a subterranean hotel now.

It is very useful to build subterranean homes in hot arid climates. Underground, the temperature is always the same. At night when the desert is very cold, it is comfortably warm in the cave, and at day when the sun burns down, the caves are cool.

Matmata cave house. Public Domain.

The houses are built around artificial craters, 5 to 10 meters deep, with doors and windows in the steep walls towards the crater. Those craters look like a patio or a Roman atrium, and the lower part of the walls is often painted white. Sometimes several of those craters are connected by a labyrinth of tunnels. But most of the houses are a single crater with several rooms around, used for living, sleeping or stooring food. This style of building cave houses is rather common in northern Africa,but nowhere so many nice examples exist.

Matmâta was one location for the movie Star Wars. At the beginning of the first movie, this was the location for the home of Luke Skywalkers Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen Lars, in the town of Sidi Driss on the desert planet Tatooine.

The scenes of the patio were filmed at Hotel Sidi Driss, which provides Berber-style accommodation for its visitors. Of course, the crater was filled with some technologic stuff, like droids and evaporators to make it look futuristic, but the style of the cave house was alien enough to make anybody believe it was on a remote planet.

The best way to visit Matama today, are organised coach tours, which include all entrance fees. They can be booked at many tourist hotels at the beaches or at local tour operators.