Soapmaking in Palestine’s West Bank

WATCH

We don’t often think about where our soap comes from (unless we’re buying the rad soap from the folks over at Bathing Culture), and we especially don’t think about how it used to be made, before factories and industrialization. But lucky for our curious minds, there are still traditional soap makers in other parts of the world, and double lucky: they’re filming it for us. 

Nabulsi soap is a traditional soap that has been made in the same way for centuries in the old quarter of Nablus, Palestine.

Made from olive oil, water, and an alkaline compound, it's considered one of the finest soaps in the world. Reaching a manufacturable scale in the 14th century, Nabulsi soap was at the time traded all over the world (even Queen Elizabeth of England was purportedly a fan). By 1907 the factories were producing over 5,000 pounds of soap annually, but this would soon taper off due to natural and man-made disasters, and destruction in the region.

Only a few traditional factories still exist.