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"You're my good friend."
Indiana Jones[src]

Sallah Mohammed Faisel el-Kahir was the "best digger in Egypt" according to his friend Indiana Jones. A dedicated family man, Sallah raised nine children with his wife Fayah. Sallah was a well known figure in Cairo, and had numerous connections, such as Captain Simon Katanga. Sallah was a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, and possessed a strong baritone.


Early life[]

The seventh born of a seventh born[2] in Cairo, Egypt in 1897,[1] Sallah Mohammed Faisel el-Kahir[3] was named after Salah al-Din, and developed an interest in archaeology at an early age. Accompanying his father, Sallah assisted American archaeologists on expeditions up the River Nile to perform preliminary excavations and the recording of Ancient Egyptian monuments' locations and hieroglyphics.[4] Sallah never learned to swim in his youth due to constantly being surrounded by sand and rock.[5]

Young Indiana Jones and Sallah in 1913.

When his father died in 1912, Sallah became responsible for supporting his mother, four brothers and six sisters. He first met Indiana Jones a year later when he attached himself to Jones as a guide around the Great Pyramids. Together they became two of the first to step inside the rediscovered tomb of Tutankhamun — almost a decade before its official uncovery at the hands of Howard Carter — and found themselves embroiled in events surrounding the Ring of Osiris and the machinations of Gustav von Trappen.[3]

By this time, in addition to his Arabic, Sallah was able to speak perfect English — where he could alternate between British and American accents — French, German and Italian.[3]

Digger career[]

The 1920s saw Sallah gaining experience in archaeology while working alongside Dr. George Reisner. He assisted in the excavation of Mycerinus' tomb, and in 1925 was helping Reisner recover and catalog artifacts from the tomb of Hetepheres, which led to a position for the museum in Boulak where he organized expeditions and established a reputation as one of the best diggers in Egypt. It was around then that he married his wife Fayah and began raising nine children.[6][4]

In 1933 Sallah helped Jones find the Tomb of Hermes during his quest for the Philosopher's Stone.[5] In 1934, Sallah's home in Cairo provided a sanctuary for Jones and the Maskelyne family on their way to the Great Sphinx.[2] Also that year, Sallah was hired by someone working for the "Man with the Silver Eye" to locate the Library of Alexandria intact. He acquired a copy of The Riddle of the Sphinx believed to hold a message from Osiris to the Pharaohs regarding a powerful artifact and went missing, prompting Indiana Jones and a member of the Adventure Society to go to Egypt looking for him.[7] In 1935, Sallah acquired the missing piece of a map which led to the Temple of the Forbidden Eye in India. He forwarded it to Jones before he traveled there himself and helped run a tourist operation to fund the excavation of the site.[8]

Fighting Nazis[]

Sallah screaming at a statue of Anubis in the Well of Souls.

Later, in 1936, Sallah helped Jones decipher the inscription on the back of Marion Ravenwood's medallion by taking him to an old wise man. They learned that the Nazis were digging in the wrong location for the Ark of the Covenant, so Sallah and Jones infiltrated the Nazi dig and they discovered the real location of the Well of Souls, where the Ark was kept. Although he was reluctant, Sallah joined Jones in the snake-infested tomb, and they found and moved the Ark to the surface.[9]

However, the Nazis discovered the secret dig and captured the Ark and Sallah. They also threw Marion into the tomb with Jones, and sealed it shut. A young soldier was ordered by Colonel Herman Dietrich to execute Sallah, and he was taken to a secluded area, but the soldier was morally incapable of murdering an innocent person just because he was given orders to do so, and let Sallah go. Jones and Marion escaped, however, and the archaeologist told Sallah to secure some transportation back to England. He made a deal with the captain of the Bantu Wind, a tramp steamer, for bringing Jones, Marion, and the Ark back to the States. Bidding farewell to his friends at the docks, he received a kiss from Ravenwood, which prompted him to sing A British Tar as he returned home.[9]

Afterwards, Sallah discovered that the stolen Chachapoyan Fertility Idol was up for sale at the shop of antiquity dealer Saad Hassim in Marrakesh, Morocco and sent a telegram to inform Jones.[10] He met with Jones and successfully assisted him in recovering the artifact.[11]

Sallah at the Grail Temple.

In 1938 Sallah failed in rescuing Marcus Brody from the Nazis, who captured him for the map that lead to the Holy Grail. Sallah took Jones and his father, Henry Jones Sr. to the Nazi convoy in his brother-in-law's car. He later tried secure some camels for the trip back home as compensation after the Nazis blew up the car but lost them along the way. After Jones had found the Holy Grail, and used it to save his father's life, Sallah rode away with the others on horseback into the sunset.[12]

After World War II broke out, Sallah was still opposing the Nazis, as Jones was informed by Imam in 1941.[13]

By 1957, Indiana Jones kept a framed photo of himself and Sallah atop his mantlepiece.[14]

Behind the scenes[]

Sallah was portrayed by actor John Rhys-Davies in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and in video and audio footage used in Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Rhys-Davies played himself to promote the ride in The Making of Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure with Karen Allen.

Danny DeVito was director Steven Spielberg's first choice for the role of Sallah in Raiders but he had TV commitments.[15] Kevork Malikyan, who would eventually be cast as Kazim in Last Crusade, had attempted to audition for the Sallah role but he arrived four hours late due a traffic jam.[16] Having seen John Rhys-Davies' performance as Vasco Rodrigues in the miniseries Shōgun, Spielberg adjusted the part for him, suggesting that the character by played as a cross between Rodrigues and Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff.[15]

Sallah photo prop.

While Rhys-Davies doesn't appear in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a prop of Sallah and Jones was created for the set of Indiana Jones' house. The photograph can be glimpsed in both scenes where the home appears (chapters 4 and 5 on the DVD), atop the mantlepiece above the fireplace. Although Davies originally stated that he was not given an opportunity to return, in an audio interview with in 2008, Davies explained that while he was offered a small cameo in Crystal Skull, he had declined, feeling that the role was too small and dismissive of the character.[17]



Notes and references[]