Nabulsi Soap

Sabon nabulsi was reportedly the soap of choice for Queen Elizabeth of England.

 

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Muhammad Kurd Ali, a Syrian historian, wrote in the 1930s that "Nablus soap is the best and most famous soap today for it has, it seems, a quality not found in others and the secret is that it is unadulterated and well produced."

An analysis of Nabulsi soap conducted by the British Mandatory authorities at the London Institute in 1934, found that the soap consisted only of natural materials and no harmful chemical materials. According to Rawan Shakaa, whose family owns one of the two Nabulsi soap factories still in operation, owners are proud of soap's purity and wonder how anyone could stand to work with and use leftover animal fat, as is common in the production of regular soaps.

 

Nabulsi soap has three primary ingredients: virgin olive oil, water, and a compound of sodium. Before the introduction of caustic soda in the 1860s, the sodium compound used in its production came from the barilla plant, which grows abundantly on the eastern banks of the Jordan River, not far from Nablus. Large numbers of Bedouins from the Beni Sakhr, Huwaytat, and Adwan tribes would gather barilla from the valleys of M'an, particularly around Salt and Tadmur (Palmyra).

 

The soap industry has shrunk considerably over the last 100 years as a result of a series of man-made and natural disasters, which include a 1927 earthquake that devastated large parts of the Old City of Nablus, and major Israeli military incursions into the city's historic quarter during the Second Intifada that destroyed several soap factories. Only two soap factories out of the dozens that operated in the 19th century continue to produce Nabulsi soap today.

 

"This city has been blessed with wonderful soap, It made her pride among cities and countries
The spirits have searched in vain its formula, And the secret remained hidden, spiritual
A tiara [tawq] of perfection has embellished her, And her way is perfection
But his soap, and no surprise, Two diadems [Tuqan] embellished in its perfection"


Fadwa Tuqan


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