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Bouhlel Sdada


Site: Bouhlel Sdada

GPS: 34.029415, 8.293550

Location: Bouhlel Sdada north area, Tozeur Governorate, southwest Tunisia

Description: Desert oasis date palm grove (palmeraie)

Indiana Jones film:
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Set construction start: Early July 1980

Production: 1-6, 8-9, 11-12 September 1980

Indiana Jones location | Film sets:
Egypt | Tanis digs | base camp
Egypt | Tanis digs | command tent
Egypt | Tanis digs | excavations
Egypt | Tanis digs | Flying Wing circle
Egypt | Tanis digs | map room
Egypt | Tanis digs | Well of Souls (entrance)
Egypt | Tanis digs | Well of Souls (catacombs exit)
Egypt | Tanis digs outskirts | desert road

Leads on set:
Harrison Ford / Indiana Jones
Karen Allen / Marion Ravenwood
Paul Freeman / René Belloq
John Rhys-Davies / Sallah Mohammed el-Kahir
Wolf Kahler / Colonel Herman Dietrich
Ronald Lacey / SS-Major Arnold Ernst Toht
Anthony Higgins / Major Gobler
Pat Roach / German Mechanic

85 [Belloq & Dietrich survey excavations; Indy & Sallah stealthily approach map room; Indy enters mound]
87 [Germans order Sallah to bring rope; Sallah tumbles down mound]
89 [Germans use rope to tow stuck truck; Sallah paces anxiously below map room]
91 [Sallah serves food and water, sneaks into tent to bind makeshift rope] <deleted>
93 [Sallah serves water to Germans; Indy sneaks away]
94 [Indy spins to avoid Germans, ducks into tent]
97 [Indy surveys, pinpoints correct spot to start digging]
99 [Toht arrives to interrogate Marion, shows burnt scar on palm]
98 [Indy leads crew to virgin dune, plants shovel to start dig]
104 [Belloq spots Indy’s dig, wakes Germans to investigate]
106 [Germans surround Indy’s dig, hold crew at gunpoint]
107 [Belloq & Dietrich gloat over seizing the Ark; Toht pushes Marion into Well of Souls]
106B [Sallah to be executed; conflicted young soldier decides not to shoot, spares Sallah’s life] <deleted>
109 [Escape from catacombs; Flying Wing circle fight & explosions]
110 [Dietrich celebrates success in the desert; German camp reacts to explosion]
111 [Second explosion on airstrip; Dietrich changes the plan, transport Ark to Cairo by truck]
112 [Ark loaded on truck, convoy departs; Sallah & Marion to find transport to England; Indy to follow the Ark]
113 [Indy gallops through camp on white Arabian stallion in pursuit]
114 [Indy rides along ridge, shadows German convoy below, slides down dune]
115 [Indy bursts into view in front of rocks, rides alongside truck, evades gunfire, climbs on truck, jumps into cab]
116 [Indy grapples with truck driver, disposes of Germans on truck, causes staff cars to crash, drives truck to Cairo]
Final cut: 19
Deleted: 2

Site selection: Proximity to Jebel Sidi Bouhlel, specifically Maguer Gorge (Star Wars Canyon), located a short 1 km northwest of Bouhlel Sdada, was the driving factor in selecting the Tanis digs set area.

Tunisian shrines: The two shrines prominently perched on Jebel Sidi Bouhlel—Sidi Bouhlel Marabout and Sidi Ben Abbès Marabout—are both visible in background sequences in two separate scenes.

Palmeraie: The small date palm grove incorporated into the Tanis digs set has significantly expanded over the years, changing the landscape layout of the set area—most particularly the northwest section (Flying Wing circle, airstrip, and segments of the German base camp)—to make room for increased Deglet Nour date production.

Location hunting: The exact location for the Tanis digs map room remains clearly identifiable. All other set landmarks, to include the Well of Souls entrance and exit, can be closely estimated by pairing distinctly shaped mountain background formations with a preliminary sketch plan drawn by Norman Reynolds (production designer) in February 1980.

Truck chase: Action filmed on oasis dirt roads near the Tanis digs set was fused with mountain road sequences produced on the outskirts of Al-Mitlawi, a phosphate mining hub situated some 35 km northeast of Bouhlel Sdada, to create Indy’s truck chase to retrieve the Ark.