"Khewra" Khewra by zinneke
Khewra Travel Guide: 24 reviews and 72 photos
The name Khewra tempts me to title this travelogue as Kool Khewra or rather Kewl Khewra… playing with vague and abstract associations like this while breaking basic spelling rules of the language of the English is more amusing than I should admit – the thing is Khewra is way cool! When it comes to being a tourist if you are around Islamabad or Lahore then a day out to the salt mines should be in the cards. If you’re thinking how can the caverns for salt rock crystal mining be interesting? Well, they are and you’ll just have to go see for yourself! You have never been spelunking until you have done so in a salt rock crystal cave like on the scale of the mines at Khewra. Plus the road trip out there is through a unique solitary landscape worth it just for the drive but these mines as a destination point make a brilliant and literally cool (in temperature) focal point for a grand day out. This diversion is especially worth it if you need some fresh air after too much urban pollution.
It is hard to imagine a mini city concealed underground in a mined cave but that is exactly what you have with the mines at Khewra. Beneath the surface of a desert region there is most notably a beautiful Mosque/Masjid made of naturally colored salt rock blocks with electric lighting from within the blocks. The salt rock colors are naturally white cream, pink or a reddish orange. When a light is placed within the salt rock the illumination casts a beautiful warm glow with these hues. The crystallized salt rock Masjid wasn’t being used when we were there and I actually wonder if even though Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, this unique place of prayer in the mine actually gets used these days. It seems it was once the place of prostration for the miners but now-a-days it looks like the prayers take place outside the mountain in a quaint small cottage at the mines railway entrance – indeed this Masjid was getting used when we entered the mines. Personally though it would have been more interesting to have seen the underground Masjid getting used as it is one of the more curious and inventive architectural Mosques of Pakistan. Aside from this small place of prayer there is also a post office and plans for expanding the existing health clinic. In addition to these places there is a café terrace like what you might find in Paris along a grand boulevard but here underground. The café area even has a floor in salt rock - again with the illumination within – the light in this room is especially interesting as it reflects off the natural salt crystal ceiling. The illuminated salt rock floor looks like any minute John Travolta in a white polyester suit is going to come running out with arms raised and hips thrusting to the sounds of a feverish Saturday night disco beat from a Lollywood film in the making! Imaginary and reminiscent discothèque’s aside the more appropriate health clinic is not yet functioning; however, when it does it will provide a healthy escape for patients with respiratory ailments. So if you have Asthma you’ll find this tour a healthy excursion. In time or as the Pakistani say, “InshAllah”, this underground village will be fully functioning with over night options (and who knows even a disco of sorts!) – when the mines reach this point the place will certainly be in the category of “not to be missed” until then it still is worthy of the effort it takes to reach the place and a personal highlight of my time in and around Lahore.
A strange and mystical side to the mine tours includes observing on a wall to one of the larger mined chambers the name of the Prophet Mohammed* revealed in the salt crystals grains in Arabic script far over head on a massive billboard scale. Certainly this will be of interest to Muslims and students of the Arabic language but the scale of the mined area and this peculiar writing on the wall as it were is a highlight worth mentioning here.
On the day we drove to the mines, using a borrowed car after exiting the main road between Lahore and Islamabad, we ended up with a flat tire… Fortunately for us or perhaps for the roadside garage nearby, we were able to get the tire repaired cheaply and efficiently as we waited. Then while our tire was getting fixed another car drove past this garage also getting its tire punctured. We began to wonder if this was an unusual way for the clever garage repairman to drum up business on a lonely road. We had a laugh over this idea but the fact of the matter is this small road is in a desert landscape sprinkled with small sharp edged rocks which eventually find their way along the road surface. If you go to Khewra in a car with old tires plan on checking to see if the spare tire is in good working order before departing. Even this inconvenient stop was interesting as the garage was located next to a farmer who showed us around his farm and invited us in for tea. We declined the tea as the tire repair wasn’t to take very long but here again is another example of the Invincible Generosity of the Pakistani People. If only the rest of the world was this friendly and gracious to the wayfarer.
* Muslims will reflect that at this point a “peace be upon Him” (etc.) be included here.
- Pros:Appeals to ones spelunking tendencies
- Cons:Off the beaten path between Lahore and Islamabad
- In a nutshell:A curious diversion from the Pakistani city scene
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