The second largest salt mine in the world.
Last Friday, I visited one of the greatest tourist attractions of this region. Somehow I hadn’t seen it, inspite of living just two hours’ drive from there. When my college friends were going there, I siezed the oppertunity of meeting them as well as seeing the unique mines.
Khewra Salt Mines:
These mines are located near Bhera which is the middle of Lahore and Islamabad Motorway. So, it is around a two-hour drive from Lahore or Islamabad. It was discovered by an interesting incident happening over a couple of thousand years ago. In 326 BC one of the horses of Alexander the Great, was seen licking the ‘stones’ here with great relish. They found out that it was a chunk of pure salt. As you may know horses like to lick salt. So, that is how the soldiers of Alexander, discovered this place in 326 BC. It was a time when he was busy winning his battle with Porus the local king.
After that, slowly and surely this place kept being revisited, till 1876 when the British freshly having ‘settled’ the locals to accept them as the ‘lords of this land’, took over the salt mines and set about doing it up. We had our lunch at this rest house which was built then. So now, after a hundred and forty-one years we all from Home Economics College decided to have lunch here on October 27th 2017. It was already 3.00. p.m. when we reached the rest house for lunch.
We thoroughly relished the hot chicken curry with salad and naans. We managed to get to the salt mines at 4.p.m.
The train ride into the heart of the mountain was really amazing. It was appropriately rickety and the lighting in the tunnel kept changing from green, to red, and blue. It was a long tunnel, yet one felt fresh air around one, there was nothing ‘musty’. Later, we were explained how small openings are kept at intervals here to keep the air flowing inside.
Once deep inside we were asked to disembark from the train and walk the rest of the way.
The guide accompanied us telling us in a humorous manner details about this amazing place. He showed how the bricks are translucent when a torch is lighted up next to it. The salt bricks have potassium, magnesium and sodium in them.
Here is the guide map we found to orientate ourselves. The walk inside is also very do-able, nothing stressful. We were assured that only fifty percent of the mountain is carved out from inside to ensure its stability.
There are small rooms and compartments built here as ‘hospitals’ which have rooms which are kept here for actual patients of asthma and other illnesses. This environment is extremely healthy and beneficial for patients of asthma. They are given space here to stay several hours to heal themselves.
The mosque was really cute and small with the glowing bricks made of salt. I saw a man praying there, and several among us wanted to do the same. It’s the only mosque in a salt mine in the world.
Then there was the ‘minar’ or tower, which looked really lovely. We all took pictures in front of it.
Then the walk to the ‘pull sarat’ or a bridge over a pond which is over sixty feet deep, I found it looks more scary in pictures.
The dripping water from the ceiling evaporates to make little hills of salt, as it drips it keeps coagulating into salt looking like icicles.
I was glad to notice that the management and our guide were very proud of the place. They made sure no one brought in any eatables, or threw litter. Yet, there were signs of it. Our people can be quite incorrigible. We have to learn to own these tourist attractions and take responsibility of keeping them in good condition.
The little ponds made from the water dripping in, is deep but the guide assured us ‘no one can drown here, as the water is so saltish- just like sea water. Anyone falling in will be floating soon.’
When we came out of it, within forty five minutes we were thrilled to see that none of us had felt claustrophobic inside. The enjoyment of seeing this unique place was increased due to being with old friends.
There are small shops inside as well as outside from where you can buy ‘lamps’ made of salt which are very healthy. The artifacts can be lit and you can not only light up the room with it, but also be healthy and get rid of negative energies in the room, specially good for those with allergies and specially asthma.
The place could be of a better standard. Pakistan tourism department could do some more improvements in it to make the place more spruced up and cleaner. Otherwise, the lighting is pretty good. The staff is helpful and cooperative. The place has a charm all its own.
College friends’ re-union:
While we were inside, we were so involved with each other, we didn’t notice a lady trying to get our attention. She started talking to us, being inquisitive about us. She was a Pakistani, settled in USA, and had come here for ten days. ‘Oh so you all are college friends …. that’s why!’ When I looked at her questioningly… she added, ‘ I was wondering how you all are so comfortable with each other.’ We were really having the time of our lives.
One of our class fellows, Asma Mazari somehow got all seventy of us on the WhatsApp group. There was so much celebration of finding each other that I just bailed out of it, (- as I’d done with several other groups who had included me – ) I explained, ‘ I’m too deep in my book projects and can’t be diverted.’ Also, my phone was constantly crashing with all those forwards. There are class-fellows all over the world. So, when the Lahore group decided to go to Peshawar on an invitation, they invited me too. I declined as I was 250 feet deep in my water boring pump project, book launch and several other projects. But when I heard they are going to Khewra, I melted with all that salt. So, it was settled, two more of our Islamabad class fellows Farkhanda, Naila and I would join the rest at Chakri. In fact, Farkhanda took us in hand by offering her car and driver to take us all, to save me from driving all the way. Her son had said that we can’t let your friend drive herself all the way. The road between Motorway and Khwera is not so good either. He was right. So I was happy for the intervention too.
We joined them at Chakri Rest Area, on 27th, around noon, on their way back from Peshawar to Lahore. After meeting all of them, we settled into their bus, asking Farkhanda’s driver, to follow the bus. We couldn’t start as two were missing. It turned out there was a case of diarrhea and constipation….. so it was only natural. As we waited, the newcomers were informed about their Peshawar trip. They mentioned all the delicious meals they had had in Peshawar and so there were these two ‘casualties’. So, when they finally came back from the rest rooms, one of them remarked, ‘you all knew, so why are you surprised at the delay’. Another responded saying, ‘the way you had rushed, we thought the good news had come!’
So, as the bus got finally moving, we all caught up with each other. I had brought some books on request. There and then my friends started buying my book, Allama Iqbal’s Tulip of Sinai. I was happy to see their pride in the work. They loved the book and asked me to sign. Several of them got extra, as gifts. So, on the way, in the moving bus I was busy signing the books and handing these over. The smiling faces of my class fellows was such a pleasure. They were happy to note, how competent our batch was. So many of us doing such great work in the field of social work specially schools for the poor children as well as other business ventures.
Then, we heard the ‘back benchers’ laughing so loudly, that all of us in front got inquisitive. None of them were telling us. So, we sent them the message that our stomachs are aching with curiosity. They didn’t tell us why they were laughing. Next day, I called one of them. She told me that one of the more spiritually inclined ones was telling the others to call the husband to say ‘I love you’ to him. Which was responded by, ‘my husband won’t be able to take it, as I never say this!’ She was appropriately reprimanded, and informed how important it is for a husband and wife to say these words to each other. So, they all got after her to ring up her husband right then to say the words to him, and give a demo. So, she did it there and then. Then the others were asked to do the same. One by one they were calling their husbands and saying the magical words to them.
Today, I found out one of the husbands had a severe blood pressure problem after that conversation. He had to be rushed to hospital. It seems love can make changes in one’s blood pressure too!
All these friends, refused to let us pay ( the ones who had joined from Islamabad) for the food, or the visits’ charges or the amount paid to the guide. So, we were the ‘guests’, enjoying typical Pakistani hospitality. Thank you, all my lovely Connection ’76 group.
So, this is all about that beautiful Friday, the 27th of October 2017, when I had a great time visiting one of the world’s wonders, with my college friends. Needless to say, they have added me again in their WhatsApp group. I guess such trips and such relationships are like tonics for us all. Do, make time for these. Stay blessed!