The humble soap – make soap not war  敘利亞阿勒比肥皂

The humble soap – make soap not war 敘利亞阿勒比肥皂

8th January 2019 2 By livinguktaiwan

When was the last time you used a bar of humble soap?  Let me rephrase the question, have you ever used soap before? Or has it always been body wash for you?  A while ago I was in the supermarket, and noticed a humble bar of soap. It caught me attention because it was made in Aleppo in Syria.

之前到大賣場,見到貨架上有一塊塊敘利亞出產的肥皂。 印像中的敘利亞長期處於戰爭中, 怎會還出產美容產品呢? 原來敘利亞出產的阿勒比肥皂歷史悠久,更可能是全世界最古老的肥皂。 貨架上除了阿勒比肥皂外,原來還有很多世界各地出產的肥皂。 從較昂貴用純天然材料做的, 到比較大眾化的都有。 包裝各適其適,琳瑯滿目。 下次大家經過大賣場的肥皂貨架,也不妨留意一下喔!


What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear Syria?  I guess it’s not soap. My nearest encounter with Syria was when I went to Jordan a few years ago. I went on a day trip to Jerash, an ancient city 48 km away from the Jordan Syria border.  My impression of Syria is a war-torn country,  where everyone lives in constant threat and danger. How is it they still manged to make such a beautiful product? I checked the packaging, and it was really made in Syria. I bought a bar, for no reason other than it was made from Syria, where people are living under atrocious conditions.


Aleppo is one of the oldest continuous inhabited cities in the world, and have been making soap for centuries. Some say Aleppo soap is the oldest in the world and dates back to as far as 4000 years old. The main ingredient in Aleppo soap is olive oil, water, lye and laurel oil. Laurel oil comes from the same tree as bay leaves.

Aleppo soap is made by boiling the olive oil, lye and water for three days till it turns into a thick gooey. Then the laurel oil is poured in and the liquid is left to cool, harden and finally cut into blocks.


I was in the supermarket last week and saw the same brand of Aleppo soap again. This time they had a few more variations, a 12%, 20% and 30% one. The % are the different laurel oil content, the higher the %, the browner the soap and more expensive.  The bar I bought previously didn’t state the laurel oil content and I can’t remember how much I paid for it. It’s brown so I’m guessing it might be the 30% one. The 30% one cost US$9.05 and the 12% one US$4.20.   This makes the price per 100g at US$4.50 – US$2.10.


Whilst I was there I noticed there were lots of other bars of soap there. It was like an International Soap Pageant, with contestants from all around the world.  Each one of them had their own colourful packaging, description and properties. I wanted to find out more about the humble soap as I think they are so neglected nowadays.  Let me show you to some that caught my eye.  I’ve roughly split them into the organics (using natural oils) and non organics, and ranked them according to price US$ per 100g.


First is Olivos from Turkey, it’s made from 100% olive oil with either horse milk or donkey milk. I like the packing in a draw string bag. They retail for $12.95, that’s $8.6 per 100g.  On a per 100g basis, this is the most expensive of all the soaps here.


Next is La Corvette from Marseille France.  Marseille soap is also very famous, particularly La Maison who also make their own Aleppo soap.  This brand comes in argan oil, lavender or goat milk fragrance and sells for $8.1 for a 100g bar.


Olivosspa is from Turkey.  It has the same name as the first one, so I’m thinking it might be the same brand as it’s also made 100% from olive oil. One variety has extra olive leaves which sounds like a massive olive overload. The other has aloe vera and the third one is mud soap. You can use it as a mask but I wonder how long it takes to get a thick enough layer on your face. This was the most expensive at $16.2, but works out to be $6.5 per 100g.


Goats milk can also be found in this funny bar of soap from Australia. I love the cute goat on the wrapping, and the different colour for the manuka honey, lemon myrtle and the original fragrant. By this time I had already spent around 20 minutes lingering around here taking photos. I was starting to get some funny looks, and forgot to check the price for this!


I like the packaging for Sapone Vegetale from Italy. They come in four different fragrances, violet, jasmine, white musk, and rose and oud.  These all sound lovely particularly white musk which I like very much. The price is $6.45, that’s $2.58 per 100g.


Korea beauty products are very popular and their soap is called Our Herb Story. The fragrances are quite different from the other countries such as ginger, ginseng and pomegranate and cost $2.5 per 100g bar.


Biotique is from India. It’s the first time I’ve seen a basil and parsley fragrant soap, and the fruit ones sounds a bit…. not sure I like the sound of them, a bit too fruity for my liking. These are $2.9 a bar or $1.9 per 100g.


I figured I should include a local one from Taiwan. This is clearly targeted for the local market as there is pretty much no English on the box. The box reminds me of the romanticism decor that I often see in people’s flat’s on local TV programs. It seems that type of decor is quite popular with many Taiwanese. This bar cost $1.9 per 100g.


Khadi Natural is also from India.  I don’t know what chandan haldi is, maybe a local fragrant.  It is very good value at $2.28 or $1.8 per 100g.


Madam Heng is from Thailand.  I’m guessing that’s Madam Heng  herself on the box.  In addtion to original Madam Heng, they have a soap for teenager’s acne skin and one suitable for the whole family. I’m not sure hygienic it is to share a bar of soap for different members of the family.  Madam Heng’s original soap is $1.9 and the other ones are $2.5.  That makes it very affordable at $1.2 and $1.6 per 100g.


Himalaya Herbals in manufactured in Dubai and comes in almond, cucumber, and neem and turmeric fragrant.  They’re also very affordable at $1.9 per bar, that’s $1.5 per 100g.


Last and not least,  you might have noticed the cow on the blue box in the background of many of these photos.  That shelf just happened to be the right height for me to take photos, so I was moving the humble soap backwards and forwards.  This is from Japan and works out to be the cheapest of them all.  It only cost $1.3 per 100g.


Having spent so much time with the humble soap the other day, I think in terms of value and quality the Aleppo Soap is my favourite.  It contains 100% organic ingredient and is made using a traditional method that has been around for god knows how many years.  Most important of all, I’m a firm believer of supporting the less advantaged.  If buying a bar of soap can help the Syrians living in the war-torn country, and help improve their life even just that little bit, I’m all for it.

What’s your take on the humble soap? Would love to hear your thoughts.