In a more recent time, on the far edge of a desert somewhere, a bespectacled, tousle-haired director and the cast of his new film wrapped up shooting key scenes in arguably the most anticipated movie in motion picture history. The man was JJ Abrams, the film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Opening in mid-December, it is a grand reimagining of the Star Wars myth – and the world is about to go into overdrive over it.

Just days before the highly-anticipated world premiere, we tell you how to and where you can expand your Star Wars universe.

Step into a Star Wars land

It may be a few years away yet, but Disney is in the midst of breaking ground on the two largest, most ambitious, single-themed Star Wars projects in history. Based at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, the not-so-secret plans include creating a new Star Wars-themed attraction where you’ll find a trading post, character meet-and-greets, diner-style cantinas, and an epic themed adventure that will let you – finally – take the steering wheel of the Millennium Falcon. The countdown starts here.

Stay overnight in Tatooine

Four of the Star Wars films were shot in the southern deserts of Tunisia, with towns like Medenine and the sand-blasted salt lake flats of Tozeur standing in for Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine. There are a number of leftover film sets still standing in the desert to explore – a standout is the intact Mos Espa set from The Phantom Menace – but the most atmospheric is the ancient Berber-fortified granary at Matmata, where you’ll find the home of the underground Skywalker homestead. Perhaps the key location of the saga, it’s possible to sleep in Luke’s house at the Hotel Sidi Driss, where Lucas and co filmed the original trilogy. If you can’t make it that far, impress fellow fans with this fun fact: Tunisia impressed George Lucas so much that his Tatooine was named after the country’s very own desert town Tataouine.

Discover the Rebel base

The rainforest jungles surrounding Tikal in Guatemala were the home of Princess Leia’s underground army in the first Star Wars film – and it’s a stunning place to discover the ancient Mayan culture in the Yucatan Peninsula of Central America. Fans may recall the Millennium Falcon spacecraft soaring across the canopy, flying east past Temples I through IV back in 1977. It’s still a pilgrimage site for hardcore fans. For the same perspective, climb the steps on Temple IV, the 64m-high Mayan pyramid that’s the tallest in the complex.

Become a real-life Jedi

For some people, Star Wars is not just a movie saga, but a way of life. That’s certainly true at the LudoSport Combat Academies, a series of modern fencing schools headquartered in Milan where masters teach pupils how to fight and defend with a customised prop lightsaber. A marriage of martial arts and Star Wars mythology, it’s taken seriously, with lightsabers used as an elegant weapon for a more civilised age. At least that’s how Obi-Wan Kenobi first sold the idea to a young Luke Skywalker. LudoSport schools operate across Italy, as well as in Belgium, England, Ireland and Russia.

Grab a selfie with R2-D2 and BB-8

The ultimate homage to the art of the sci-fi saga, Star Wars and the Power of Costume is a stellar new globetrotting exhibition featuring 70 original hand-crafted costumes from the first two trilogies. First opening at the EMP in Seattle early this year, it has since jumped ship to Discovery Times Square in Manhattan, New York, with the welcome addition of characters from The Force Awakens. Walking in feels like hanging out with friends you haven’t seen in years. The exhibition runs until September 5, 2016.

Out-dress Darth Vader
Comic-Con International in San Diego is the world’s biggest comic and sci-fi convention –  that we all know. It brings together celebrity guest panels, preview film trailers, behind-the-scenes videos and thousands of memorabilia stalls. But it also sees thousands of devoted fans –  more than 130,000 at the last count – turn up in increasingly wacky and far-fetched costumes dedicated to their favourite sci-fi and pop fiction characters. In essence, it’s your chance to be Chewbacca or Yoda for the day. Next year’s event takes place at the San Diego Convention Center from July 21-24.

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