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In Syria, War and Modernity Are No Match for the World’s Oldest Soap

Atlas Obscura – The artisans of Aleppo keep plying their ancient trade, one bar at a time: “The Syrian Civil War has been raging for eight years now. In that time it has decimated the ancient tradition of soap-making in Aleppo. Nearly the entire industry’s workforce was forced to flee when the fighting started—some to other cities, some to new countries altogether. Today, though the war rages on in parts of Syria, government forces have mostly regained control of Aleppo, and the city is slowly coming back to life—and going back to work. That includes some of Aleppo’s traditional soap-makers, who are renovating their workshops and reviving production. With help from government organizations and charitable funds, the soap is again becoming a popular and profitable Syrian export. Aleppo soap, known as ghar in Arabic, or Savon d’Alep, is revered by aficionados around the world. Many historians consider it to be the world’s first modern soap bar—solid, rectangular, and used for bathing and personal hygiene. Made by hand, it contains just three ingredients: olive oil, laurel oil, and a tincture of lye. It has no animal fats or derivatives, no harmful chemicals or artificial colors. The result? An intensely moisturizing and delicate balsam widely used by those with sensitive skin, including small babies and those who suffer from eczema, psoriasis, and acne…”

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