Mark Dermul is a serious Star Wars fan. He was just 7 years old in 1977 when the original movie hit the theaters. As soon as the huge Star Destroyer flew across the opening scene, he was hooked.
"It hasn't left me," he says. At 43, Dermul now guides tours throughout North Africa, visiting sites that were featured in the blockbuster films.
On one 2010 trip back to planet Tatooine — OK, Tunisia — he and his tour group noticed that Luke Skywalker's boyhood home was rapidly decaying. They jumped into hyperspace — OK, the Internet — to save it.
They sent out a call on Facebook to restore the sandy igloo first featured in Episode IV: A New Hope. Fans from around the world responded at light speed with donations, shooting past the goal and raising more than $11,000. Then, war threatened.
The Arab Spring put the project on hold, but by October 2011, Tunisia's newly instated government provided the permits necessary for the renovation to begin.
Though much of the hut was past saving, Dermul's group reinforced, plastered and painted what was left. Luke's old homestead is now back to its original desolate glory.
The renovation may bolster more than just fantasy; when he first started visiting landmarks from the movies, Dermul says, the local Tunisians thought he was crazy. But tourism has received a boost from Star Wars fans in recent years, and now, he says, locals are coming around.
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