Unearthing the Himalyan Salt
The story of the discovery of the Khewra Salt Mine is strange yet believable. In 326 BC, the army of Alexander the Great was passing through Pakistan and stopped to rest at Khewra. Observing how the horses began licking the rocks, a soldier did the same – and that’s how the salt mine was discovered.
Fast forward to today, the Khewra Salt Mine is now the second largest salt mines in the world, second only to the underground salt mine in Goderich, Canada. To understand the sheer magnitude of the mines, one need only think about the dimensions.
A Tourist Destination
The salt mine covers an impressive 100 square kilometers, with over 40 kilometers of tunnels running over 700 meters into the mountain. The Khewra Salt Mine is owned by Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) and mining is carried out by PMDC as well as private companies.
The estimated annual production is over 347,000 tons of pink, white, and red salt and it is exported mainly to China, India, America, and Germany. An interesting fact is that around half the Himalayan salt found is mined, and the other half acts as columns. This is done primarily to ensure that these massive mines stay structurally sound and don’t cave in on themselves.
Khewra Salt Mine is a popular tourist destination and receive over 250,000 visitors annually. Located 160 kilometers south of the capital, Islamabad, the mines are easily accessible through the motorway. While the majority of the mines are inaccessible because of safety reasons, various monuments and attractions have been made out of salt on the 5th level – just for tourists.
Visitors are taken inside through a narrow-gauge electric train and are then taken on a walking tour of the mini wonders. These sites include replicas of the Badshahi mosque (a fully functional version made with salt bricks), the beautiful Minar-e-Pakistan, the Great Wall of China, and Murree’s famous Mall Road.
There is also an impressive salt statue of the national poet Allama Iqbal (r.a.). The PMDC also developed a beautiful salt bridge over an 80-foot deep brine pond, which requires a modicum of bravery to cross since it depicts the ‘Pul-e-Siraat’ (a bridge Muslims believe they must cross on the Day of Judgment).
Another wonderous attraction is the 75-foot tall assembly hall complete with spiral staircases. All the attractions were fitted with special lights to give the salt a soft glow – and showcase the natural variety of shades and colors of the salt produced in the mines. There is even a fully functional post office – made entirely of salt!
The Salt of the Khewra Mine
Since pink salt is famous for its healing properties, a mini-hospital was established adjacent to the mines. The facility focuses on the treatment of breathing ailments (such as asthma) using salt therapy. According to experts, asthma patients can inhale antibacterial salt particles in a sterile environment at the clinic, which helps clear lung passages.
The salt mines are no less than one of the seven wonders of the world – and are a must-see for tourists and locals alike. Since Pakistan is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination for foreign tourists, the mines are expected to receive even more international guests. Alongside the once-in-a-lifetime experience, visitors can also purchase interesting items made of the famous pink salt – including (but not limited to) lovely table lamps.
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