While LucasFilm had previously /star-wars-episode-vii-begins-shooting-may-14-and-you-can-be-an-extra/announced a start date of May 14 for Star Wars: Episode VII, it sounds like things are kicking off early as the Abu Dhabi portion of the shoot is scheduled to begin this Tuesday, May 13.
Abu Dhabi is expected to double as Luke Skywalker's home world of Tatooine, with shooting taking place in the desert. No visitors will be allowed in the area where massive sets have been built, and its being reported that the local police and army will be on alert and checking all vehicles that near ground zero.
Sources close to the area have spotted numerous buildings and vehicles in the midst of construction, with an 'entire world' being built right in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert. Some of the sets sit on an otherworldly salt lake. There is a 'shuttle-like' spacecraft, a large tower and what is described as a 'centuries old looking market'. This market is reportedly called the 'Alien House' by the crew. And 10 to 15 really fast buggies powered by jet engines have been spotted, with some claiming that the original Landspeeder is amongst these vehicles.
It's also being reported that explosives have been brought into one of the sites, where the crew have created a blast creator. It looks as though the scenes taking place in Abu Dhabi will feature a large battle or a spacecraft crash of some sort.
A group of technicians from both the U.K. and America have been working throughout the weekend, making sure the sets are ready to shoot starting this coming week. While no names have been mentioned, a portion of the cast has arrived on location. Some of the actors have even been out practicing driving the vehicles through the dunes. So it sounds like there will be quite a lot of practical effects being shot on set.
The Abu Dhabi shoot is expected to last at least until the end of the month, leading some to speculate that Tatooine plays a major role in the story.