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The Many Casualties in Aleppo Include an Ancient Olive Oil Soap

The amazing traditional olive oil soap makers of Aleppo, Syria.

The amazing traditional olive oil soap makers of Aleppo, SyriaThe Battle of Aleppo is an ongoing military confrontation in Aleppo, Syria between the Free Syrian Army, Islamic Front, People’s Defense Units and Sunni militants against the Syrian government, Hezbollah and Shiite militants. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate. The battle has also caused catastrophic destruction to the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

One of the myriad of casualties of this war to be lamented is the loss of the world’s oldest soap: the soap of Aleppo. 82 percent olive oil, 12 percent laurel oil and soda. There are only three ingredients in this product that 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 Syrian 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. Because of the intense conflict, soap makers fled the city. They left their workshops and their homes in Aleppo when they could not easily find olive oil from villages surrounding the city and as they grew fearful for their families’ safety.

We at Little Angel are proud of our traditionally made olive oil soaps because they are simply that – traditionally made. While our Little Angel/Patounis olive oil soaps are made in Greece, we share the loss of these amazing artisans that perfected their traditional olive soaps for centuries. We wish them Godspeed and pray for their safety and longevity. Right now, however, the return of soap makers and their families will not happen any time soon.

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