One of the first things I noticed, and seemingly one of the last things frequent visitors noticed, when we arrived closer to the village were the chimneys of the kilns where clay bricks are being cooked. As we got further away from Islamabad, the narrow columns of black smoke in the distance were the unmistakeable clue. As soon as we drove around the hill, the towers become visible as well as the tidy rows of bricks that were sitting, as if permanently, in the crevasses. I asked my wife to ask one of the locals if these are indeed brick-makers, and he confirmed.
I became fascinated by them. I've always known that the oldest bricks found in Babylon were around 6000 years old. I don't remember when I read that (sometime in the nineties) but I remember immediately wanting to know how they were made to last thousands of years. Twenty years later I saw the whole process in real life. I didn't have a chance to spend a full day with the workers, but the main steps were very clear from the way everything was laid out.
The clay is stockpiled before it's moulded into shape. It's then left to set - by the looks of it for days if not weeks - before being cooked in the kilns. What baffles me is the way this process has evolved into a perfect production line that feeds the local market with the perfect amount. How do they forecast sales, match demand, deliver on time and compete for business? Is it all local, or is this the brick-making capital of Punjab? Questions only I'm afraid, I couldn't get the answers this time.
We did go off the main road to get close to a working group. I managed to capture these images , so at least I'm able to share what we saw. They saw us arrive, and watched me come out of the car and take pictures and didn't seem to mind at all. A smile went a long way to give me enough time to capture a couple of close-ups. I really missed a quality camera that day - and I missed the luxury of the time it takes to learn what they did and how they did it.