Feature: Olive soap makers bound together in solidarity to revive traditional industry in Syria's Aleppo

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-23 05:47:36|Editor: Mu Xuequan
Video PlayerClose

by Hummam Sheikh Ali

ALEPPO, Syria, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- For people of Syria's Aleppo city, olive soap is not only a soap bar for washing their hands or adding natural shimmer to hair, but also one of their proud and treasured heritage.

In Syria, people would say "Aleppo" upon the mention of the best natural laurel and olive oil soap that could be bought in Syria or even around the world.

Like any other aspect of life, the olive soap has taken a beating in Aleppo when the war enshrouded the city with destruction and calamities.

As the war in Aleppo city has ended in late 2016, this valuable product is back in the limelight.

Makers and traders of olive soap came together and joined hands in unity to help each other stand on their feet.

Hicham Jebeili, head of the olive soap manufacturing committee in Aleppo, told Xinhua that manufacturing of the olive soap is recovering gradually with the solidarity of the soap traders.

He said that during the war, most of the factories went out of service and most of the manufacturers opted to make small quantities of the handmade soap in their homes and basements to keep their business alive.

After liberation of the former rebel-held part east of Aleppo, and when the city became safe, makers of the soap gathered and started doing their business in the factories that escaped the war with little damage.

In one factory in the industrial zone in Aleppo, seven to eight soap makers share one space to make their products until their factories are fixed.

This approach has so far succeeded in bringing good to all the soap makers whose businesses had been affected during the war.

In this factory, workers are seen feverishly working.

Some are mixing and cooking olive oil, laurel oil and caustic soda in big bowels before releasing them through pipes to the bottom floor.

Afterwards, other workers cut the soap into bars and stamp the companies' logos on them manually.

After the soap bars become dry, workers will store them in another part of the factory.

"Manufacturing of the olive soap is recovering. Last year, only two factories were operating in Aleppo while this year, there are eight big factories trying to gather all the soap manufacturers ... to make their soap until fixing their own factories," Jebeili told Xinhua.

He added that "this is something so positive because we are helping each other to empower the making of the olive soap business."

For those who make the olive soap, it is not only a product because they create it by their own hands and nourish it like a baby for days, weeks and months.

Making the olive soap takes two months in the winter after the harvest of the olive oil and then the soap is kept for the summer until its color turns yellowish to be packed and distributed.

Aleppo's cold and dry weather in the winter and the hot and dry weather in the summer make it the perfect place for the manufacturing of the soap.

As the olive soap is a very important item for exportation, maintaining the pre-war quality will surely help the traders export more of this material to enhance their economic situation.

"Our production nowadays is the same quality as before and even better because the olive soap business helps us to empower the economy and our businesses through exportation," Jebeili said.

"Everyone is trying and wanting to make a better quality soap to export and bring in foreign currency and rebuild the city's factory," he added.

According to Jebeili, European countries, Korea, Japan, and China have demands for the olive soap. The exportation of the soap was affected during the war but "now we are returning it with steady hands."