While much of George Lucas’ mythic “Star Wars” films were filmed in studio lots or in preexisting structures, a number of their exterior sets, especially for the desert planet Tatooine, were purpose-built for the films and simply abandoned to the sands and the fans when filming was over.
While the most famous leftover Star Wars set may be the Hotel Sidi Driss, a Tunisian hotel that was used as the interior of the Lars moisture farm, Luke Skywalker’s teenage home, many more structures were built just for the production such as the Lars farm exterior and most of the city of Mos Espa.
In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace the spaceport of Mos Espa is shown as a bustling frontier town where young Anakin Skywalker lives and works as a slave. Many of the bulbous structures were filled in using CGI, but much of the first stories of the buildings were built practically and still stand as a squat beige town square that looks as though it was shaved cleanly off at the top. The facades are not actual buildings, but fronts built for filming, yet visitors can still mill about the exteriors as though they were on that far-flung desert planet. There are also some iconic “moisture vaporators” also left on the site.
The single-domed building that was built to represent the outside of the Lars Homestead where Luke Skywalker grew up, unaware of his cosmically significant heritage, was used originally in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and then shot again for the prequel films. This little building was built in the middle of nowhere for the very first film in the series and was abandoned after shooting wrapped. Left to the elements, it deteriorated but was actually refurbished when the later prequels once again had use for it. After the prequels finished shooting the fake home was once again abandoned and began to fall apart again. However, a group of dedicated fans have taken to restoring the hut so that it can last for future fans of the franchise.
Rampant desertification has threatened both the Mos Espa and Lars farm sets as the unstoppable desert sands are beginning to bury the science fiction meccas. The country of Tunisia has even recently sought international support to save the Mos Espa set which is a huge source of tourism revenue for the country.