Location/Culture Reports

Culture Report – Tunisia and the Sahara Desert

Tunisia
The racers first stop in this leg is Tataouine, Tunisia. Tunisia and Tataouine are very well known as filming locations for many movies. Among the movies filmed in this area were The English Patient, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Monty Python and the Life of Brian and, of course, the Star Wars movies. The Life of Brian is brilliant, funny, and brilliantly funny. There have been many books written about Monty Python and Life of Brian. Most recently, The Pythons, An Autobiography by the Pythons, has been published. This includes a section on Life of Brian including the time they spent filming in Tunisia. During the large crowd scenes in the movie, many local Tunisians were included. However, the area is probably best-known for the six Star Wars movies. Starting with Star Wars, A New Hope and ending with Episode III (to be released in 2005), George Lucas filmed many of the scenes in the movies in Tunisia. For you Star Wars fans, there is a company that does tours of the area.

Sahara Desert
The racers end this leg in the Sahara Desert. The Sahara, which come from the Arabic word sahra', meaning desert, is the world's largest desert. It covers about 3 1/2 million square miles, an area roughly equal to that of the United States. The Sahara extends more than 3,500 miles, from across northern Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and stretches more than 1,200 miles from north to south. The desert spreads over all of Western Sahara and the African part of Egypt. In addition, the Sahara covers parts of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania.

Humans have lived on the edge of the desert for almost 500,000 years. The Carthaginian civilization was founded there, flourishing in what is now Tunisia before its defeat by Rome. Currently, the Sahara has a population of about 2 million with some of the larger areas having no permanent settlements. About two-thirds of the population are concentrated in oases while the remaining one-third are nomadic. Three groups of people comprise the majority of Sahara-dwellers: Arabs, Berbers and Tuaregs.

There have been some movies filmed in the Sahara, including Othello, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version), Lawrence of Arabia and Catch-22. Some books about the Sahara include Douglas Porch’s The Conquest of the Sahara; L.C. Briggs, Tribes of the Sahara; James Wellard, The Great Sahara; Georg Gerstar, Sahara: Desert of Destiny and Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.