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The History of Tripoli Soap

TRIPOLI | - August 21, 2012, 12h49
 Tripoli Soap
At the end of the 15th century, the governor of Tripoli Youssef Bek Sayfa established Khan Al Saboun (the hotel of soap traders). This market was finished at the beginning of the 16th century, the last days of the Mamlouks ruling.
The manufacture of soap was very popular in Tripoli. There, the market became a trade center where soap was produced and sold. Afterwards, traders of Tripoli began to export their soap to Europe. At first, those perfumed soaps were offered as gifts in Europe. Therefore, handiwork developed in Tripoli. Due to the ongoing increase of the demand, craftsmen started to consider this job as a real art and wanted to satisfy their product amateurs by manufacturing various forms of more effective good-quality soap. That’s how the Arab and occidental countries began to import the soap of Tripoli.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Europeans started to produce soap with automated and chemical processes. Therefore, they competed with Tripoli market. Meanwhile, in order to make their soap, local producers also started to use machines that allowed them to manufacture their products at a lower cost and with a better productivity.
Since this epoch, the traditional handiwork soap fabrication has progressively decreased at the expense of the mechanical processes. However, some craftsmen are still making this soap as they use to make it in the old times.

Nowadays, we find all kinds of soaps in Tripoli: slimming soaps, anti-acne soaps, moisturizing soaps…Some producers are even turning to exportation more than ever.

How is Soap made in Tripoli?

The raw material used for these kinds of soap is olive oil. The Tripoli soap is also composed of: honey, essential oils, natural aromatic raw materials like: flowers, petals, herbs…
The soaps are dried in the sun, in a dry atmosphere: this allows the evaporation of water that served to mix the different ingredients. The drying operation lasts for almost three months. As water evaporates, a thin white layer appears on the soap surface: it is the soda that comes from the sea salts. The craftsman brushes the soap very carefully with his hand until the powder trace is entirely eliminated.
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