Is this the first official sighting of the production of "Star Wars: Episode VII"?
"I'm never coming back to this planet again," mused Luke Skywalker when he went off to embrace his destiny in "Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope," though the "Star Wars" storytellers keep proving him wrong.
Following recent rumors that the seventh installment of the enormously popular sci-fi series would feature scenes on Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine comes what appears to be photo evidence, courtesy of a photographer from The National.
The alleged set pics, taken on Tuesday morning in the dunes near the Qasr Al Sarab resort in the Abu Dhabi desert, reveal an encampment of tents with several crew members moving around pieces of equipment, including a large grey mechanical disc that looks particularly "Star Wars"-esque.
Bloggers are already speculating that the large, round set piece in the photo is the 'foot' of an AT-AT — one of those huge, walking armored transports that first appeared in "The Empire Strikes Back."
The National reports that sources within the Abu Dhabi film industry are claiming that crew members have been hired for the top-secret production. The Hollywood Reporter had sources saying just a week ago that scenes of Tatooine would be shot in Abu Dhabi.
Disney's stealthy ways seem to be keeping the goings-on hidden from the locals. No one at the gas station, two cafes, and two shops in the closest town, Himeem, was aware of a nearby movie set or construction.
"I live around here, it's totally my home area and I'm sure if anything as big as that was going on I'd know about it," said an Emirati farmer. "I'm always here, and I've definitely seen nothing like that. It's just business as usual."
Director J.J. Abrams is obviously using Jedi mind tricks to keep things under wraps. After all, he is famous for keeping his projects (like "Lost" and the "Star Trek" movie series reboot) top secret while they're in production. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a month ago that production would start in London in May — but Disney chairman Alan Horn let the cat out of the bag days later, saying filming had already begun.
Abu Dhabi is one of seven lands that constitute the United Arab Emirates (UAE). ‘Dhabi' is the name of a species of native Arabian gazelle that was once common in the region, with ‘Abu Dhabi' meaning "the place rich in Dhabi." It is the capital of the UAE and the largest emirate by area and population, with more than 2 million citizens.
[Related: The Remains of the Original 'Star Wars' Set]
The original Tatooine set for "A New Hope" was built in 1976 in Tunisia — approximately 4,000 miles away from Abu Dhabi — with much of it remaining intact as a tourist attraction in the Tunisian Sahara desert, northwest of the city of Tozeur. George Lucas took the name "Tatooine" from another Tunisian town, Tataouine.
Meanwhile, no cast members besides R2-D2 have been officially announced for "Star Wars: Episode VII," which hits theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.