Nabulsi Soap: Olive Oil Soap, its History, and Benefits

The Palestinian city of Nablus is one that is rich in history and culture. Nablus has been a prominent city for historians. It is well-known for its ancient civilizations, and roots that can be traced as far back as the Samaritans. The city was an Eden for the Romans as well. Because of its strategic position, the abundance of natural sources of water, and a protective topography, Nablus has remained a hub for peaceful settlements and civilizations. 

It is fitting that a city that ancient should have an equally ancient trade that it is popular for. One that warrants an inherited sense of craftsmanship. The city of Nablus is popular for its organically made olive oil soap. Which is known worldwide as the Nabulsi soap. 

Where it all began:

The tradition of soap-making started sometime in the early 14th century in the city. According to tradition, women had started the practice by making the soap at home. They used ingredients like Olive oil, Barilla plant ashes, and lime. 

Soon the soap became so popular that it developed into one of the largest exports for Nablus and contributed to a large portion of the city’s revenue. The soap was reported to be prized by Queen Elizabeth I. This led to it being exported to Europe, boosting its demand and market value.

This boost led to the Nabulsi soap industry expanding. In the early 1900s, there were as many as 30 soap factories in the city. Not only were these factories responsible for the generation of maximum employment, they were also responsible for providing soap for more than half of the country. The 20th century, however, was not as blessed for the soap industry. 

All of a sudden, there were many more alternatives in the market to the traditionally made soap. A hype for foreign products became a challenge for the locally made olive oil soap bars. Furthermore, the economic crash caused the Olive oil prices to skyrocket, making the production of the soap more expensive. The hikes in prices caused the market demand to plummet downwards. Economic recessions caused many of the Nabulsi soap factories to shut down, and by the beginning of the 21s century, only two functioning factories would remain; Tuqan and Shaka’a. 

The process:

The art of tradition is one that is sacred to cities that are rich in history. We can feel this essence and reverence for tradition with how the soap is crafted, and the retention of the original ways that have been in practice for centuries. 

The recipe for these olive oil soap bars is a five-step process. One batch may take up to months to be readied before it can be shipped out for use. 

Step 1: Cooking and Packaging

The main ingredients of the soap are virgin olive oil, the ashes of a plant called Barilla mixed with a locally available lime called sheed. The latter conjoin to become soda ash, which is pounded into a fine powder and added to the large pots over fermentation pits, along with water and olive oil. The mixture is heated for three days and cooked until the preferred texture is achieved.

Step 2: Laying

The cooked pots are carried and spread out over the floor of the designated room. The liquid is poured evenly and may take up to a whole day to dry.

Step 3 Cutting 

The dried bars are cut into small cubes by a skilled team of 3-4 workers. Here they are also stamped using the name of the brand.

Step 4: Drying

After a day or so, the workers collect the soap bars and pile them into pyramids, or tananir, leaving them to dry for two or three months. 

Step 5: Packaging

The last step of the process is packaging. A team of workers packages around 500 to 1,000 soap bars per day. They are packaged depending on where they are to be used. Nabulsi soap bars made for local use are packaged in paper and sealed with wax, whereas bars meant for export are packaged more stiffly. 

Why use an Olive Oil-based soap?

Using an olive oil-based soap recipe can be a good alternative to chemically made soaps and shampoos that we are accustomed to. The world is turning towards green and organically made products because of the natural benefits and minimal side effects they carry. 

  1. Olive oil is a great dissolvent. This means that olive oil soap bars become a great source of residue removal from your skin. Residues from moisturizers, sunscreens, makeup, or a general accumulation of debris and carbon monoxide can become irritants. Nabulsi soap is a great and natural way to cleanse your skin of that. 
  2. Olive oil is rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K. This makes the soap bars perfect for revitalization and regeneration of dead or damaged skin. 
  3. It is a great treatment for hair loss. Olive oil soap bars contain an abundance of Oleic acid, which contains 5-alpha reductase. This prevents a buildup of DHT, an enzyme linked to hair loss. DHT blockers can keep the enzyme from binding to the scalp, promoting hair growth. 

Where we come in:

After the latter half of the 21st century, there was a steady decline in the production of Nabulsi Soap. The abundance with which these olive oil soap bars were once made never recovered, and their popularity decreased.

Holy Land Dates prides itself on being a company that promotes tradition. We are happy to state that we export authentic Nabulsi soap from the city of Nablus, and bring it to our consumers in the United Kingdom who are looking for authentically made olive oil soap bars. 

Tradition has always been sacred to humans. What we call “authenticity” are the remnants of civilizations and people. Of a past that we share with our countries and cities. These traditions entail the authentic production of staples and popularized produces and foods. Our company is proud to be a part of a cause that promotes such legitimacy.

 

June 27, 2022 — Muhammad Nazim Awan

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