`Among the Casualties in Aleppo, an Ancient Olive Oil Soap - Olive Oil Times

Among the Casualties in Aleppo, an Ancient Olive Oil Soap

Nov. 26, 2014
Aldo Pesce

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Soap mak­ers in Aleppo, Syria

82 per­cent olive oil, 12 per­cent lau­rel oil and soda. There are only three ingre­di­ents in the world’s old­est soap: the soap of Aleppo. The prod­uct has been the same for cen­turies beyond the walls of the his­toric citadel of Aleppo, in Northern Syria.

Being all nat­ural with­out any syn­thet­ics or other addi­tives, the soap of Aleppo is made from local olive oil, and it is renowned for its ben­e­fi­cial effects on the skin. The soap mois­tur­izes and adapts to all skin types, from dry to del­i­cate because it reg­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of sebum. It is even used for hair care.

Syrian soap pro­duc­ers around Aleppo used to gain their liveli­hood from local sales and, more recently, in inter­na­tional mar­kets. In the last 30 years or so, in the United States, Europe, and Japan plenty of con­sumers began to know and search for this small green bar with an Arabic stamp and a magic smell. But in real­ity the first exports of this soap were cen­turies ago by cru­saders, com­ing from the Northern Syrian city.

A long time has passed by, but this land still remains a bat­tle­field. Turmoil between rebels and Assad forces have led to the near com­plete destruc­tion of the city. Indeed, 2012 could be con­sid­ered the last year of pro­duc­tion of the green gold from Aleppo.

Soap mak­ers fled the city. They left their work­shops and their homes in Aleppo when they could not eas­ily find lau­rel oil from vil­lages sur­round­ing the city and as they grew fear­ful for their fam­i­lies’ safety.

Now they are abroad, in Lebanon, in the UK, still pro­duc­ing and mar­ket­ing lau­rel soap” far from the place where the tra­di­tion was born. The qual­ity stan­dards remain high as the know-how is still there, but no one can say: This is an Aleppo soap.”


A few days ago news agen­cies reported that the leader of Free Syrian Army left the city and his 14,000 men were directed to Turkey. Today, Aleppo and the sur­round­ing area is under the con­trol of rad­i­cal mili­tias. The return of soap mak­ers and their fam­i­lies will not hap­pen any time soon.

Threatened by mass-pro­duced com­peti­tors, and now by rad­i­cals, Aleppo soap’s future seems uncer­tain.

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