The Indy Traveler: Destination Jordan

Preface: During the easter 2010, I and my parents visited Italy for the second time. Among the city of Florence (Firenze) we also visited Venice. As the release of “Crystal Skull” back in 2008 really boosted my Indiana Jones fandom to new heights, I realized that Venice was extensively used as filming location for “Last Crusade”. And being the fan I was, I really wanted to find at least one filming location to visit. The church of San Barnaba (which doubled as the library in Venice) ended up as a perfect choice due its easy recognizable architecture and surroundings. Armed with a map, we spent a few hours searching for this location. A few hours wasted you might think, but that was not the case. While searching for this particular church, we actually walked through very interesting places (far away of the normal tourist crowded areas) of Venice which otherwise would’ve gone unvisited. That itself is a win. Finding the church was the second win.

We walked across this exact bridge, reaching the other side of the canal in which the Church of San Barnaba was found.

The library of Venice in “Last Crusade”; well, it’s not actually a library in real life.

Church exterior.

“Ah, Venice…”

The church as in present day.

This year’s easter. The destination was Jordan. Our original traveling destination was in fact Syria, which we were supposed to visit during the December of 2010. But protests and political instability in the region made us change our travel plans. And what a trip! I must admit that I had heard little about the country before, in fact, the only thing I knew about this place was that a temple in the city of Petra served as the Grail temple in “The Last Crusade”. And yes, that was my main reason to visit this place. But just as Indy discovered his unique relationship with his father when his original intention was to find the Holy Grail, I really discovered the wonderful country of Jordan when my initial motivation was to visit a shooting location for “Last Crusade”.

And what an amazing place!

As to avoid this post being a typical travel introduction/guide to the country of Jordan (in that case, I would like to recommend Lonely Planet, this site and this.), I am doing this with an unusual twist. I don’t know who actually read this blog, but for Indy-maniacs out there, or anyone who are curious about traveling around in Indiana Jones gear, I hope you’ll find the following guide/FAQ informative and inspiring (I am a terrible writer, so setting it up like this made it easier for me to write, so please bear with me.) People who want to visit the country without a travel company might also find this interesting. So here it goes:

FAQ:
Q1: Why bother traveling dressed up in an Indiana Jones costume in Jordan? That’s so geeky! A1: I always stand upon the issue of what to wear when traveling. Are you suppose to wear your daily clothes? Your normal casual clothes (whatever that is) that you wear at school or at the office? Maybe you ought to safe with the stereotypical western tourist fashion, that is sandals, t-shirt, polo shirt of some kind combined with a pair of shorts. A hawaii shirt maybe? It’s your own choice, right? Myself, I like to dress in something totally different. The fact is, that the Indiana Jones “costume” is one of the most practical type of clothing you can wear. Actually, it consists of different types of clothes that you might wear daily. Think about it, the pants are 30s male wool pants which should keep you warm during cold nights, but also protected from the sun. The shirt is an adventure/safari-type shirt which is both comfortable and easy to wash. When washing this shirt at night, it’s totally dry the next morning. That can be very practical if you don’t wanna bother bringing too much with you while traveling.

However, I must admit that the Fedora (the Indy hat) can be quite hot sometimes in Jordan. But it do protects you from the sun. And the sun is really intense there. A down-side with the Fedora while traveling, is that you’re stuck with it during the whole trip. The only place to store this thing is…on your head, for the rest of the trip. Like it or not, but that’s the reality!

Q2: Tell me more about your Indiana Jones costume. A2: The complete list of gear consists of: Fedora, 30s styled wool pants, adventure/safari-type shirt, a british MKVII WWII Gas Mask bag (which serves as Indy’s man purse/satchel bag/shoulder bag), web belt, leather belt, bullwhip holder, a bull whip, revolver and holster and a pair of leather (working) gloves. A characteristic leather jacket of a design particularly created by costume designers for the Indiana Jones movies, and finally a pair of casual Alden Indy style leather boots (403 or 405). (A backpack might be used as well, Indy is seen wearing a german army alpine backpack in Crystal Skull.)

The satchel bag is more practical than you might think (as most females know to appreciate their purses and hand bags.) Man purses actually rule. I personally had my cameras in the bag, together with a first aid kit, a small bottle of water, some chocolate and a map.

Q3: Why bother to visit filming locations featured in the Indiana Jones movies? That’s so geeky! A3: Well, why do you travel at all? The fact is that the Indiana Jones movies feature a lot of interesting real-life locations which, yes you guessed it, was chosen due to them having a certain form of history, background or..simply because they are exotic and interesting places to serve as a backdrop for a particular scene. When deciding upon a shooting location you want to visit is just like being Indiana Jones; The actual search of a place is indeed an adventure itself. You never know what people, which situations or places you will end up experiencing while searching for that particular location. While searching for the particular church in Venice for instance, brought us to many interesting places that would otherwise have been neglected.

Q4: Is it dangerous to travel to Jordan? A4: Not more than traveling to other countries. From what I’ve experienced and heard, the chances of the arab spring reaching Jordan is highly unlikely. When it comes to public security, I must admit that we felt pretty safe through out the whole trip, in fact more safer than many other places we’ve visited before, such as Spain (Madrid) and Italy (Rome in particular). Around the major tourist cities, there are tourist police stations to ensure for the safety of tourists. However, common sense should be always used when traveling to avoid dangerous or crime-related situations. Some travel sites recommend female travelers (especially female solo-travelers) to think twice before visiting Jordan, but according to this blog, it shouldn’t really be much a problem.

Concerning traveling with Indiana Jones gear; common sense tells you that the holster and revolver should be left at home!

Q5: Describe how it is to travel in full Indiana Jones gear in Jordan. A5: It is highly recommended. However, this should depend on temperature and season for your visit. I was there in early April. Where the temperatures were 20-30 degrees during the day (low humidity), and quite chilly at night. Wearing the leather jacket, preferably with a sweater as well is highly recommended when the sun is down. The pants were suprisingly comfortable, both during the day and during the night. When it comes to the Alden leather boots, I would recommend that you bring along a pair of sandals as well. Although the Aldens are extremely comfortable walking boots (I also used them for hiking), they did become quite hot when being exposed to direct sunlight. They are very effective in keeping the sand out of your socks, but to wear them for a full day in for instance Petra is not recommended.

Also, the bullwhip proved to be quite an attention drawer among the local Beduins. I got a lot of questions about it and everyone seemed very interested in buying it. After a while, you actually want to “hide” this thing when seeing the local kids, to avoid “How much do you want for the whip-questions”. It seemed like they all wanted it to use on their donkeys and camels! One local Beduin in particular, approached me and whispered (with his wife in the background) that the bullwhip sure “was good for the women“, and ended with a small grin. Apparenly, his wife heard everything and threatened to kick his butt. She really had attitude! Hail the strong Beduin women of Jordan.

What really surprised me was how easy-recognizable the character was among both locals and tourist. I can’t count how many compliments and comments I got from people from different countries about the gear. I’ve probably heard the pronounciation of “Indiana Jones” by at least 10 nationalities. The funniest thing was when I met two girls very early in Petra who literary yelled out “Indiana Jones”, and then we posed for a few pictures on front of the Treasury both with my and their cameras. That was fun! That truly warms the heart of a real Indiana Jones geek.

Q6: How did you travel around? A6: We were 4 people and rented a normal car with 5 seats. In addition to the international car rental companies, there are plenty of local companies that offer decent cars in much lower rates. We used rentalcars.com, which is recommended. Beware that many of the companies booked through that particular site have an office outside the International Airport of Amman (in contrary to the larger international rental companies), quite often you are met by a representative at the airport that drives you to their office for picking up the car.

Q7: Is it hard to drive in Jordan? A7: This depends if you’re out in a village, in a smaller or a bigger city. The hard part is not the driving itself, but navigating yourself through a city that is unknown. One particular city that seemed to be quite a challenge was Amman. We used a GPS, which was a lot of help. Driving between cities and in smaller cities such as Jerash, Karak, Petra etc. was very easy and straight-forward.

Q8: What places did you visit? A8: We spent 10 days in Jordan in total. At the day we arrived, we drove directly to the city of Madaba (1 night), which is quite close to the dead sea. Then we followed highway 65/50 to Karak/Kerak (1 night). “King’s highway” (highway 35) might be used to get onself southwards, but we found this road a bit too curvy, exhausting and time-consuming to drive in the long term, so we avoided this as much as we could. Then it was Petra (3 days), Wadi Rum (2 nights), Jerash and Dana. On our last days, we lived one night at the outskirts of Amman and one night near the Citadel Natural historic site in the Amman city center.

And by the way, if you want to try (probably) the best Chinese restaurant in the middle east, try the one in Petra (it is found next to the main road into the city). Actually, some of the dishes are better than what they make in China…no kidding! We actually went there 3 times because the prices and service were good, and the food totally delicious and definitely authentic!

Q9: Ok, I must admit it. I really want to go to Jordan because of Petra. I am a great Indiana Jones fan and I am planning the trip of my life. How can I plan the day as to see as much of Petra as possible? A9: There you go, it was good to let that out right? You see, Petra is a huge archeological site/park, which you should spend at least 2 full days in. You also should be aware that the ticket prices has increased drastically the last few years, it is now 60 JDs for a 3 days pass, this equals approximately 85 USD. And FYI: A one day ticket costs 50 JDS. Don’t let the price scare you, it was worth every penny! We bought the 3-days tickets and spent 2 full days and a half day there. Do also set aside some time to see “Little Petra” which is free and less crowded. That place sure got its charm.

To avoid the largest tourist groups, it is wise to enter the Petra Archeological Site as early as possible. For 2 days, we entered the main entrance around 7 in the morning. The last day we got there a bit later. The park opens at 6 in the morning. At that time, you are basically alone, expect for a few local beduins with the camels and horses. And that I can assure you, is a truly magical experience. One of the benefits of getting there early is that you also avoid the sun. It was actually chilly enough for needing to wear the leather jacket.

Q10: How is the modern city of Petra? A10: It looks like the modern city of Petra developed as a result of increased tourism in the area after the site became a an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Today, it seems that the city’s main purpose is to serve the purpose of tourism, housing both tourist and locals which work in the tourist industry. Most hotel and hostels are located along the main street, and you will also find a few tourist-Beduin-over-night camps closer to the main road towards “Little Petra”. There are taxis around which should take you around the city, but strictly speaking, most hotels are within walking distance compared to the main entrance to the archeological site. But expect at least 15-20 minutes of walking from nearby hotel/hostels. A parking lot is found just nearby the main entrance as well, for those who are driving a rental car.

Q11: Where to live when visiting the Petra Archeological Park? A11: There are plenty of hotels in Petra in all price ranges. We used hotels.com to locate our hotel, it is recommended to also look at the customer reviews to make the final choice of hotel.

And please remember..Choose wisely.

Q12: Can you tell me more about the Petra Archeological Park? Is it big, can you walk around in Indiana Jones gear the whole day? A12: From the main entrance of the site, it is approximately 15 minutes of walking till you reach the Siq (Al Siq) on the map. The Siq is a “shaft” in the canyon which is basically a geological feature in the rock which creates a natural and quite spectacular entrance into the ancient city. From the Siq, it is about 15-20 minutes of walking to the main attraction, which is the Treasury (Al Khazneh). This is the Temple which holds the Holy Grail in “Last Crusade”, folks. Both George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford AND Sir Sean Connery have put their feet there.

It is possible to wear Indy gear all day. But I do recommend taking a backpack with you. In it you should have an extra pair of shoes which can substitute the Alden boots if it gets too hot. For instance during the middle of the day. The jacket is perfect if you reach the Treasury early in the morning when it’s still shadowy and chilly, but during the day, it’s definitely too warm.

An illustrative map over the major sites in the Petra Archeological Park.

“The Siq” is the main entrance way into the ancient city. But there are other routes as well (ref: the map above).

When you reach the end of the Siq, this is what meets you!

“Mr.Spielberg, Second Unit…lightning, actors..ACTION!”

George Lucas and Sir Sean Connery on front of the Treasury (at the end of the Siq). Actor John Rhys-Davies and stunt double (?) is seen to the right.

Riding through the Siq (Al Siq) in “Last Crusade”.

Q13: It is recommended to spend at least 2 days in Petra. Does that mean that you are inside the archeological park all the time? How about eating, are you expected to hunt your own food and make barbeques inside the site? A13: The archeological site is huge, depending on where you are in the park, it will take hours to get yourself out of the park (from the Treasury to the main entrance it is almost 20-30 min of walking depending on speed). So either bring your lunch, or eat at the restaurants/cafées at the musem (ref: the map above). I would recommend to plan your routes accordingly, especially if you decide to eat at the restaurant. You get in during opening hours, and you get out when it closes. I have heard stories about people staying inside the park after it closing, but that happened when they were invited by local Beduins into their housing places inside the site.

Filming outside the Treasury with actor Denholm M. Elliott portraying Dr.Marcus Brody.

Q14: Did you meet other Indiana Jones costumers while you were in Petra? A14: I saw a couple of old men wearing Fedoras (the Indiana Jones type of Hat), but not in the same color scheme, and plus, they wore Hawaii-shirts and sandals. I want to think they were well disguised Indy fans.

I also saw a guy who appeared to wear an Indiana Jones t-shirt, which made me very excited. But then he moved his hand revealing the first words on his shirt, which as Jack &. Disappointing..

Q15: Do you need a guide inside the Petra Archeological Site? A15: Well, it really depends on you. If you are old or suffer from health problems which restricts you from walking very far, a guide might be an idea as he will lead you through the most interesting places and taking the shortest routes. But otherwise, I don’t think having a guide would matter much. You can come very far either by doing some homework on Petra before you arrive, maybe writing down some interesting facts in your grail note book like Indy did?

Q16: You talked about other routes into Petra. I feel adventurous and want to take an alternative route. A16: That’s the spirit! I can highly recommend a route which we took the second day (marked blue on the map below). This route requires some light scrambling through some tight canyons (no need for climbing equipment), and remember to take bring enough water!

But please advise: It is NOT recommended to take this route during the rain season. The route goes through an area of canyons which rain water flows through, and dangerous situations can easily arise. Trust me, you don’t wanna hurt yourself in those canyons, unless you wanna reenact some real-life scenes from 127 Hours.

The second route start just before you walk into the Siq. You will see a kind of water reservoir/dam-like construction and a tunnel. The tunnel will lead you to the correct path. Remember to follow the trail, although it is not particularly marked, you can easily see whether a route is possible to embark or not.

The tunnel which leads to the second route. It was a nice tunnel.

Much of the route features this kind of scenery.

You can actually see traces of the small river created during rain season.

The canyons in the second route before you actually enter the ancient city of Petra. Some parts of these routes require a little bit of scrambling. Please don’t get your arm stuck in some kind of cracks here.

I had to rest my feet frequently due to the heat of wearing the Aldens boots. When being exposed to direct sunlight, these boots do become hot! But you can’t really chicken out when you’ve already come so far!

Alden 405s with the caves of Petra in the background.

Q17: What other things are to see and experience inside the Petra Archeological Park? A17: Actually, there should be something for everyone. I can imagine that this place is like world’s largest Disneyland for archaeologists. For scramblers and hikers, there are plenty of routes to choose from if one wants to discover the more “wilder” parts of the site. For an engineer as myself, I was just blown away by the shear size of this place, I can’t imagine much time and man hours that would actually take to carve all these structures back in the days. I mean, you walk into a temple, and the interior is like huge. The walls and ceiling were all perfectly perpendicular to each other and made with such precision.

I kept imagining myself how it would’ve been to live there, the large amount of temples and caves…even a large amphitheatre is a tell-sign of once a large population. Why did people abandon this place, and what other secrets are yet to be excavated from this place? Geesh, I should’ve studied archaeology!

The amazing blend between natural geological formations and man-made architectural wonders.

You can’t really say no this this kind of scenery. Truly magical. Many of these buildings shows wear and tear due to exposure to mother nature.

I get goosebumps from just thinking about this place…check how small the people are compared to the structure.

Quick..escape the large tourist groups!

You have to stay in character all the time,  also when signing the guest book..

Here’s one of the gift & snack shops outside the Visitor’s center at Petra. And look, there’s someone dressing up as Steven Spielberg.

Also check out this site for more worth-seeing pictures of other interesting snack shops found around Petra. Do you fancy going to the Titanic snack shop maybe? To hang out with a Leonardo Dicaprio costumer/customer?

Q18: Did you go inside the Treasury? A18: No. That is prohibited. Hey, is this an interrogation? I did not do anything illegal, I swear. The interior of the Treasury does not look like the one being portrayed in “Last Crusade” by the way, that was done in a soundstage at Elstreet in the UK. However, I refer to this site for some interesting pictures from the inside of the real-life temple.

An interesting observation is that they’ve done some excavations outside the Treasury after the filming of “Last Crusade” took place, as seen in the picture above. The whole platform of stairs are now fenced off for public visitors. It is not possible to see the inside of the Treasury.

The real Indiana Jones on front of the Treasury.

The fake asian rip-off of Indiana Jones at Petra, sitting on the back of a horse for the second time in his life. Sorry, I couldn’t find a screen accurate horse with the same color, carpet, head shape and height as the real one used on set back in the 80s.

Q19: I’ve seen the pictures before, don’t you have anything else to show, like a video or something? A19: Sure, check this out: “Indy gets beaten up, an Indiana Jones fan film” (made on the go while we were traveling).

Q20: Did you find the Holy Grail? A20: No, but I discovered the wonderful people and country of Jordan, which I want to return to in the future.

The end..of questions.

2 thoughts on “The Indy Traveler: Destination Jordan

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