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Traditional soap making: a trade in which women excel but on its way to disappear


Many areas in Lebanon are renowned for traditional soap making.  Aita Shaab which is located along the southern border enjoys a wealth of laurel trees and is famous for soap making using laurel oil essences.  Laurel soap is one of the best known traditional soap which is manufactured in Aita Shaab goes back to mid last century.  Women from Aita narrate that they have learned this trade from Palestinian women who had come from Nablus.  Manufacturing traditional laurel soap is labor intensive especially that high temperatures are needed to extract laurel essences.  Women make laurel soap at home and the timing coincides with the olive harvest period.
For its part, Kura region located in North Lebanon is also renowned for its manufacture of olive oil soap.  As Safir published another report on 79 year old Michel Mansur from Koura who transformed traditional olive oil soap manufacture into a modern industry and he dedicated his time to its development after he retired.  Mansur is producing various artistic forms of soaps and is experimenting with medicinal and aromatic herbs and creating new recipes.  He is also introducing natural fragrances and colors to the traditional recipes.  However, he refuses to expand his industry and to buy new and modern equipments as he is not seeking to make profits. Mansur tells As Safir that his soap is in high demand particularly since local olive oil is finding difficulties in marketing because of competition with foreign oil. He insists on the historical and traditional values of this soap and laments that none of his children has inherited this traditional trade and he is thus afraid of its extinction.
Source: Al-Safir 16 July 2014

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