Big in Jordan: How to reenact Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

This week, Big in Japan is on vacation in the Middle East, and will be bringing you travel news and happenings from around this often misunderstood region.

With the world premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull scheduled for May 22, 2008, it’s no surprise that the internet is buzzing these days with Indy-related travel themes. After all, who wouldn’t want jet-set across the world in search of mythical treasures, assuming of course that in the end, you get the girl and defeat the Nazis!

Well, considering that today’s column is about Jordan, that surprisingly peaceful speck of a country that is bordered by Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia (there goes the neighborhood!), I thought it best to give into the Indy hype. After all, one of the newly minted New Seven Wonders of the World, namely the ancient city of Petra, happens to be the location of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Interested in reenacting one of the greatest moments in cinema history? Go grab your trusty bull whip and keep on reading.

In the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Joneses, Sallah, and Brody race across the world to reach the temple housing the Holy Grail, which is located in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon in Hatay near İskenderun. You don’t need to be a geography major to realize that Hollywood got a bit carried away with the names, especially since the the temple housing the Grail is a very real place. In fact, we’re talking about the Treasury, which is located in the Siq Canyon in Petra near Wadi Musa.

So, how do you reenact the Last Crusade? Actually, it’s quite simple. Wadi Musa, a small village in the south of Jordan, is the base town for exploring Petra, and home the area’s hotels, restaurants, cafes and tourist-related services. From here, the entrance to the ancient city is just a quick cab ride away.

Petra, a ‘rose-red city half as old as time,’ was hewn from towering rock walls of multi-colored sandstone by the ancient Nabataeans, Arab traders who dominated the region in pre-Roman times. The city’s most iconic building, and the film location of the Last Crusade, is the fabled Treasury or Al-Khazneh, a masterpiece of Hellenistic craftsmanship that is near perfect in size, scope and symmetry. Sadly, the interior of the building is empty, so you can abandon any hopes of falling rock bridges, grail cups and the search for everlasting youth.

The Treasury is approached via the Siq, a long and narrow slot canyon of multi-colored sandstone. In the final moments of the Last Crusade, the Joneses, Sallah, and Brody race down the Siq on horseback with the Treasury to their backs, fading off into the distance. If you’ve brought along your Indy hat and leather jacket, this is where you’re going to want to snap that classic screen shot. Fortunately, the local Bedouins have all seen the Last Crusade a few hundred times, so there is no shortage of horses on hand that can be rented for a small negotiable price!

Sure, it’s touristy, but once you’ve gotten the obligatory Indy snapshot, you can take comfort in the fact that Petra is one of the most stunning archaeological sites in the whole of the Middle East, yet sees a mere fraction of the tourists that swamp neighboring Egypt. So, wear plenty of sunscreen, clean up your memory card and don’t be afraid to call out your favorite Indy lines while trekking across the desert!

Intrigued by the Middle East? Want to know more about this often misunderstood region? Check out previous posts on the top sights in Dubai, a how-to-guide for would-be travelers in the Palestinian West Bank and reasons why Jerusalem is holier than thou.