The making of Camel Skin Lamps is a handiwork that has been practiced in Multan for almost a millennium! There are families in the city who have been into this business for centuries and continue to this day.
Camel skin lamps Made in Multan are renowned world-wide for the intricate handwork done on them by skilled artisans. The art of decorating a camel’s skin is known as NAQASHI in the local language and is a very valuable skill.
The different paintings made on the camel skin that is fixed atop the lamps represent the local culture of Multan city. The pictures, the designs, the colors, all connect with the local customs in Multan.
Camel skin lamps made from Multan have been exported to different countries of the world and have therefore earned a lot of accolades and goodwill for the ancient city and the country.
Making of Camel Skin Lamps: Team Work of a Triad
It is said that the making of camel skin lamps is the joint effort of three different workers skilled in their individual expertise. One is the Clayman, the second is the Naqash and the third is the Dabgar. Each of the three work in unison to produce ornate camel skin lamps in Multan.
Cholistan Desert as the Supplier of Camel Skin Lamps
Camels can be found easily in areas near to Multan since Multan is located very close to the desert. The Cholistan desert of Punjab is very close to Multan where camels are used as a matter of routine by the local population for travelling. Therefore, the main raw material for this art, that is the camel skin, is available easily in Multan.
Since Cholistan is a very dry desert, so there is a frequency of camels dying from thirst. This is in spite of the fact that camels have a natural ability to store water for days in their bodies even in the hot summer season.
When a camel dies, it is still of value to the owner as he can sell its skin and make a good profit out of its sale. This is a bit similar to goatskin that is sold frequently in Pakistan at a good profit for the goat owners.
Processing the High Value Camel Skin for Lamps
- The camel skin is first cleaned free of camel hair and then washed with a chemical. This is to ensure its cleanliness from all kinds of unwanted substances such as flesh particles.
- Next, the camel skin is cleaned in a way that quite a few layers are removed from it so that the skin becomes translucent. This is because the camel skin is later to be used for a lamp and so it must allow light to pass through it to fit onto a lamp.
- Finally, the camel skin is fixed on top of a base made of clay and then left to dry in the sun.
- The next step in the process is for the artisans to use a die to decide the shape they intend to give to the skin.
- After that, they paint the skin with traditional colors or pictures depicting the local culture. Painting of the camel skin is probably the most difficult step in the process, relatively speaking. This is because it is very intricate in its nature as the designs on the camel skin are all very minute. This means that extra care has to be taken in the designing and the panting of the camel skin lamps.
A lot of attention is required to ensure that mistakes do not occur in the designing of the camel skin or the painting over it. The eyes of the Naqash also take a toll as he performs his art on one lamp after the other.
In addition to the camel skin being used for making lamps, other small handicrafts such as camel skin vases and lamps also have a high appeal with buyers.
Durable and Long-Lasting Camel Skin Lamps
The camel skin lamps are very long-lasting, buyers can assure themselves that they can practically last for a lifetime. The camel skin lamps are said to be of service for between fifty to hundred years. The lamps would need varnishing at different points in time so as to maintain their beauty and shine however.
Camel Skin Lamps Caught In The War On Terror!
In recent times the art of camel skin lamps in Multan has taken a hit. This is primarily because of the decline in tourism that has dropped revenues from the trade by a big margin.
Ever since joining the collation of the United States after the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan has seen a backlash of suppressing terrorists at home. Major military offenses were carried out in the country to flush out terrorist from its soil, with the latest operation codenamed Zarb-e-Azb is still underway.
All this has undermined the tourism industry as different countries continue to caution their nationals against traveling to Pakistan. This is in light of the risks involved of the frequency of acts of terror taking place in Pakistan. Many travel advisories however are not based on facts on ground but nevertheless, the skin camel lamps industry has taken a hit because of the downfall of tourists visiting Multan and elsewhere in Pakistan.
Exporting Local Souvenirs Overseas
However, the export of camel skin lamps made in Multan continues as they are admired and valued the world over, courtesy of their beauty and the hard work put into them. There is a huge demand for camel skin lamps made in Multan in the gulf countries as well as in Europe and America.
In the US, camel skin lamps are sold for as much as six hundred  USD. However, there are many different varieties and each lamp has a different price, some are available in much cheaper rates as well.
Shopping Online for Multan-Made Camel Skin Lamps
The camel skin lamps are also sold online worldwide such as on amazon.com and ebay.com amongst other websites to fans of this art.
In addition however, the camel skin lamps can also be bought online over OLX and other online shopping websites in the country such as pakistanhandicraft.com, tcsconnect.com, and others.
In Pakistan, these lamps are also sold in handicraft shops in different parts of the country.
For natives of Multan, the camel skin laps can be purchased at relatively cheap rates straight from the manufacturers of the lamps as the art is local to the city.
Vintage Camel Skin Lamps
An interesting fact about camel skin lamps is that many of the vintage lamps are in high demand in the market. Many admirers of the art are keen to purchase camel skin lamps made long time ago probably because of the skill of the workers that fascinates them. Those workers may have had expired as of today but their skill might as well serve to keep their hand-made camel skin lamps in high demand throughout the world.