Aleppo soap: War threatens an ancient tradition

Aleppo soap – widely considered to be the first soap ever made – is popular across the Middle East and far beyond. But the intense fighting is making business in Syria’s second city all but impossible – and the soap’s future is uncertain.

One of Nabil Andoura’s earliest memories is making soap with his grandmother.

She was from a family of traditional Aleppo soap-makers and she handed down a closely-guarded recipe that hadn’t changed for generations – “not for centuries” Andoura says proudly.

Made from mixing oil from laurel (bay) trees with olive oil and soda, Aleppo soap uses no chemicals or other additives.

First introduced to Europe by the Crusaders in the 11th Century, demand for the intensely moisturising, all-natural product has soared internationally in the last 10 years.

But last month, after two years of fighting in Syria, Andoura was forced to flee.

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