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Site: Kairouan

GPS: 35.676441, 10.099909

Location: Kairouan medina (old city), Kairouan Governorate, central Tunisia

Description: Enduring ancient Arab-Muslim cultural/intellectual center (670 CE)

Filming areas:
plazas (x2)
private properties (x3)
streets/alleys (x13)

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

Set construction start: Early September 1980

Production: 17-20 September 1980

Indiana Jones location | Film sets:
Egypt | Cairo souk | bazaar streets & plazas
Egypt | Cairo souk | hitmen flat (balcony/room)
Egypt | Cairo souk | Marhala Bar (exterior/interior)
Egypt | Cairo souk | Omar’s Square
Egypt | Cairo souk | residential alleys
Egypt | Cairo souk | Sallah’s terrace (rooftop)

Leads on set:
Harrison Ford / Indiana Jones
Karen Allen / Marion Ravenwood
Paul Freeman / René Belloq
John Rhys-Davies / Sallah Mohammed el-Kahir
Souad Messaoudi / Fayah
Vic Tablian / Monkey Man
Steve Hanson / German Agent
Terry Richards / Cairo Swordsman

59 [Lunch on Sallah’s rooftop terrace; views over Cairo; monkey appears]
61 [Sallah & Indy discuss German dig, map room, medallion, and Ark on terrace]
63 [Indy & Marion enter bazaar with monkey]
64 [​​Monkey runs to Monkey Man in alley]
64B [Monkey Man spies on Indy & Marion in bazaar]
64C [German agents spot Indy & Marion from balcony, order Arab hitmen to action]
65 [Arabs ambush Indy & Marion; cart rides off with Marion; Indy unleashes whip]
66 [Marion on the run, hits Arab with frying pan, hides in basket]
68 [Chattering monkey reveals Marion’s hiding place]
69 [Indy cuts down last bad Arab, starts to follow Marion]
70 [Arabs carry Marion away in basket; Marion shouts for Indy]
72 [Foot chase down streets and alleys]
74 [Indy pushes through crowded square, dodges gunfire, takes cover; basket heaved into back of truck]
75 [Back of truck filled with munitions]
76 [Truck on the move; Indy shoots driver; truck rolls over and explodes]
77 [Indy drowns his sorrows at Arab bar; German agents escort Indy to Belloq’s table; Sallah’s children save Indy]
78 [Indy, Sallah & children climb into truck in front of Arab bar]
79 [Monkey Man watches, starts motorcycle to follow truck]
79A [Indy & Sallah arrive at Imam’s house; Monkey Man emerges from the shadows] <deleted>
118 [Indy drives truck into Omar’s Garage; Arabs set up bazaar, hide location from German staff car]
Final cut: 19
Deleted: 1

Title: Released as Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, the official title was expanded in 1999 to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark for video release packaging (although the original title is retained onscreen) to mirror the naming convention used for the sequels.

UNESCO: Kairouan medina, founded by the Umayyads in 670 CE as a strategic center point for Islamic conquests in the Maghreb and Andalusia, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 for its preserved network of ancient walls, gates, minarets, cupolas, winding streets, courtyard houses, and historic mosques. The Mosque of the Three Doors (866 CE)—oldest known mosque in the world with a sculpted facade—appears in the background in four separate scenes.

Name: Kairouan (Arabic: “camp” or “caravan”) sounds similar to Cairo, coincidentally reflecting the Egyptian capital setting adopted for Indiana Jones filming.

Antennas: To mimic 1930s-era cityscape footage from the properties used for Sallah’s terrace and the German/Egyptian hitmen balcony, crew members during a single day organized the removal of over 300 TV antennas from rooftops scattered throughout the medina.

Sallah’s terrace: Crew utilized two separate rooftop areas on a single multi-story residence (located on Rue Salah Soussi) to construct a unified elevated terrace (complete with stairs) for panoramic views over the medina.

Screenplay changes: On the tail end of location shooting, several planned scenes/sequences were shortened (e.g. funeral procession removed from Indy’s street chase), omitted (e.g. German staff car in pursuit of Indy’s truck in Cairo before arriving at Omar’s Square), or deleted (e.g. Imam’s house exterior activity) due to dysentery and heat-fatigue among the cast/crew. These on-the-fly decisions (1) prompted a more compact filming footprint in the medina (with repeat usage of Place J’raba and sections of Avenida Habib Bourguiba) for multiple scenes and (2) produced iconic modified takes such as Indy’s showdown with the Cairo Swordsman.

Arab bar: Crew adopted both the interior and exterior of a popular 1970s-era local coffee shop (Café Hassanet)—now the Hassanet Shoes Gallery with an upper floor carpet shop flanked by two jewelry stores—to shoot footage set at Marhala Bar (name not present in screenplay; derived from set dressing work).

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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.