A campaign to save the Mos Espa set from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace from the ravages of the Tunisian desert is now underway.
Remember a couple of years ago when we learned that Mos Espa, Anakin Skywalker's home village on Tatooine, was still standing in the Tunisian desert? The BBC reported last year that scientists have been using the set as a fixed reference point to track the migration of sand dunes, called barchans, which at that time had just made contact with some of the set's buildings. In due time they'll cover the set completely and eventually blow over it, but will undoubtedly leave considerable damage behind.
In the eyes of Tunisia's Ministry of Tourism, that's a problem. The nation's tourism industry has taken a serious downturn as a result of the turmoil that followed the 2010/2011 revolution and overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia from 1987 until his ouster, and the new tourism minister is trying to reverse those losses by raising awareness of lesser-known areas of the country like Ong Jmel, where the Mos Espa set is located.
To that end, the ministry has launched a "Save Mos Espa" campaign, an effort to raise 300,000 dinars ($190,000) to remove the sand and restore the site. The Tunisian government has allocated 160,000 dinars ($101,000) to the project and hopes to raise more from outside sources. Work is already underway and a representative of one of the groups involved said they'd managed to remove 8000 cubic meters of sand in 12 days, but some of the set had already collapsed. The sand removal is a temporary measure, but according to tourism ministry official Fahmi Houki, it should buy the set another eight to ten years.
Among those the Tunisian government hopes will help with the project are people like, maybe, you: Star Wars fans willing to chip in a few bucks to make it happen. A "Save Mos Espa" Indiegogo campaign now underway is seeking $45,000 in donations to help offset the cost of moving the sand and restoring and promoting the site. You can even have your name engraved on a special plaque that will be placed in the desert near the site, although it'll cost you $1000.
If that's a bit rich, you can go as low as $1 if you like, and because this is an Indiegogo "Flexible Funding" campaign, all money donated will go to the project even if it doesn't reach its goal. The "Save Mos Espa" campaign runs until June 6, 2014.