A seemingly nondescript outpost at the end of one of the main three roads in town, the Hôtel Sidi Driss is the most popular of the “troglodyte” hotels found in Matmata, thanks to its stellar affiliation with that galaxy “far, far away” (see “sights” above). The hotel consists of five different "pits" that are joined together by underground tunnels and staircases. Each pit contains a series of rooms accessible off a central courtyard.
Upon entering the hotel from the street, visitors descend a staircase that leads to a very basic lobby. Various articles and photos which depict just how Star Wars put Matmata on the map hang from the walls and behind the modest reception desk. From here, there are several different paths that lead to the underground pits that, at some point, were dug from the earth. Nowadays, the pits remain continuously exposed to the elements... and the tourists!
The main pit just beyond the lobby features some of the larger dining rooms created to contain the hordes of tourists that invade this modest-looking location each and every day. Some of the Sidi Driss pits are better maintained than others. The current state of "Pit #1" offers a nice glimpse at the effect water can have on the seemingly impractical inverted domiciles. (Set of Drifter Brady was very intrigued by the patterns created by the dripping orange mud over whitewashed plastered walls as it reminded him of some of his earlier painting techniques.)
Off-limits “Pit #5,” accessible via the “Lars Family dining room” on the Star Wars set in “Pit #4,” is probably in the worst shape. Stacks and stacks of furniture and linens bundled up in plastic wrapping suggest that this is actually the "service" quarters and storage for the hotel. Of course, our favorite part about “Pit 5” was its cat population, hidden behind a crate of Celtia beer, but only for a moment! Yes, the malnourished kittens of Tunisia have made all the way to the pit dwellings in Matmata! The little babies just broke our hearts as they were so tiny and thin!
We found out from the man working at the front desk that we were the only occupants at the Sidi Driss that night! This was somewhat unsettling considering that the hotel features upwards of 22 rooms between its two habitable pits!
We ended up staying in “Pit #2” and once inside the room were surprised to see four separate single beds competing for floor space! (Clearly, this place is set up to accommodate large parties of Star Wars fans!) The three “beds” against the back wall were actually just mattresses laid on top of slabs formed into the ground! (The W Hotel Matmata this was not!) And yet, after a long day of trekking through Chenini, Ksar el-Hencha, Ksar Hedada and Matmata, anything would have felt comforting and relaxing... that is until we realized that the linens were full of miniscule sand and dirt particles! Oh joy!
The accommodations at the Hôtel Sidi Driss are basically just caves that have been dug out from the ground and then plastered and painted over in white. The overall look is actually pretty chic and reminiscent of the Hôtel Ksar Hedada, a property that at one time had also featured interiors full of groovy alcoves and built-in furniture, yet had not been quite fully realized to its fullest potential.
Wooden doors that are secured by simple chains and padlocks are just some of the innate drawbacks at the Hôtel Sidi Driss. Amenities are scare at best with communal bathrooms and showers your only option! (Have no fear, while the contents of the toilets no doubt head downward, the bathrooms feature "natural" ventilation shafts which reach upward to the ground level above.) Aside from the oddly placed “Popeye” and “Olive Oyl” welcome mat, the funniest thing about our room was the official tariff sheet attached to the door, something we never would have expected to see out here in this remote underground location.
Of course, your “Set of Drifters” know how to go with the flow, and can adjust our comfort levels accordingly. We had brought some Celtia beers with us to unwind a bit before dinner, and though we were without a bottle opener, were able to use that simple padlock on our door to pop open the lids! Later when our power converter prevented us from actually closing the door, we were able to enlist the amenable front desk manager to charge our camera batteries for us. Ultimately, if the accommodations could have been kept cleaner, with air conditioning and modern bathrooms added into the mix, a casual stay at the Hôtel Sidi Driss would not be so bad.
The next morning, courtesy of some rather vocal birds, we had the opportunity to awake at sunrise. Since the hotel was virtually empty, every nook and cranny was ours to explore by the light of day. After taking some more photos, we managed to get a muted breakfast in one of the dining rooms not featured in the Star Wars films. From a nearby kitchen, we heard a cook chopping heaps of vegetables and could not figure out why! Our breakfast was bare bones, and there were no other visitors in sight... It all made perfect sense when we strode back through Matmata a few days later and stopped off at the Hôtel Sidi Driss around lunch time to grab some magnets from one of the souvenir shops nearby (see “goodies” below).
Busloads of tourists had descended on the town, clogging every pit of the hotel. The vibe was really quite different when marred with travelers from around the world who didn't really appreciate the hotel’s main attraction it in the same way.
To be perfectly honest, the Hôtel Sidi Driss does not offer a good night's sleep. The sand or dirt particles in the blanket were somewhat unnerving, and by 5:00 AM, the local birds were chirping so loud that you could not avoid their calls. That being said, the Hôtel Sidi Driss is certainly a special place that you should check out, if only for lunch or a beer at the bar. Even though it may not have been up to our usual comfort standards, being able to experience all of the leftover set dressings from the Star Wars films was truly extraordinary. We even managed to re-enact a few scenes from the films in photos that turned fellow fans back at home green with envy!
Set of Drifters tip: The white posts you will undoubtedly notice from above the Hôtel Sidi Driss are used to designate pit dwellings from the surface so those walking their donkeys, or dare we say it, driving in vehicles, do not fall in!! We recommend that you too take some caution when walking around the rims of the cratered dwellings of Matmata!
You can find out more about our trip to Matmata and the rest of Southern Tunisia in our book STARS OF THE DESERT - A journey across the dunes of Tunisia to discover lost "Tatooine" - available on Blurb!
- Also Known As:
- Sidi Driss Hotel