I have friends who have Himalayan Salt Lamps. I have been skeptical of their being from the Himalayas which is separate from my skepticism on their medicinal properties. But this week I, in fact, visited the mine where they come from. The Khewra Salt Mine is in the Salt Mountains of Pakistan and this is where the pink salt originates. Is it Himalayan? Well, the Salt Mountains are the outer range of the Himalayan Mountains, but it is a distance from the “real” Himalayans.
The Khewra mine is about three hours from Lahore. To get there you travel across the Indus valley, crossing two major rivers. I was glad to be able to get outside the city and see farm land. Wheat dominated the landscape immediately outside the city. In-between the two major rivers that we crossed, orchards and sugar cane were more predominant. We stopped at a major rest stop before heading away from the main highway. I was faced with McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Hardies, and Pizza Hut.
When headed north toward the mine, the land become dry and parched. Salt was evident on the land and little was under cultivation. Across the landscape you could see rock walls that still delineated property lines, though. And we started running into large trucks filled with chunks of the pink rock salt.
Soon the Salt Mountains appeared and goats and camels became more common.
The mine used to draw visitors from abroad but locals are the primary audience today with the mine being the destination of school field trips. The actually history of the discovery of the salt deposits goes back to 320 BC when it was discovered by Alexander’s troops but trade started in the Mughal era. Today there are still 1000 workers on the active site. The salt deposit was formed when a sea was cut off from the ocean and then evaporated, leaving the salt deposits behind. It is also part of a folded and faulted rock formation that is part of the forces creating the Himalayan Mountains. Besides the salt that is used for the lamps, it is also used for bath salts and potash is used into other products such as laundry detergents and shampoo.
We took a small train into the mine and then walked around. They have built structures inside with the salt for bricks. Even the emergency center is made out of the salt. And famous buildings are also reconstructed from the material.
If you have problems with asthma you can stay in a special facility within the mine for ten days and you will be healed. I remain skeptical.