The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Palestinian Olive Oil Soap

Palestinian Olive Oil SoapOur olive oil soap is made in the West Bank city of Nablus by the Hasan al Shaka’a factory. This Nabulsi soap is a Castile soap made from olive oil, water and an alkaline sodium compound.

It has been described as “the color of an old book” and is unscented, although it does have its own distinct aroma.

Originally made by women for home use, by the 1300’s it had become an important industry. It is estimated that in the early 20th century, 30 factories in Nablus were supplying half of the soap in Palestine.

The industry was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1927. It also began to suffer from competition from other types of imported soaps. In more recent years, the Israeli military occupation has physically destroyed and economically crippled the remaining industry so that at present there are only two fully functioning Nablus soap factories: those of the Shaka’a and the Tuqan families.

This film shows the process of traditional soap production in the old soap factory in central Nablus. The film was produced in May 2014 by Eirik Moe, Stavanger, Norway.

Crafting traditional olive oil soap in Palestine

The Tuqan factory in Nablus is the oldest survivor of this once-prominent industry.

Rich Wiles, Al Jazeera, 08 Apr 2016

Nablus, occupied West Bank – The Palestinian city of Nablus has long been renowned for the production of olive oil soap. With origins reportedly stretching back more than 1,000 years, the localised practice progressed to an industrial scale around the 14th century.

Several factories were destroyed by the 1927 earthquake that hit the city, and later, Israeli military attacks on Nablus during the second Intifada caused irreparable damage to several historic factories.

Today, only two factories remain in production. The Tuqan factory is the oldest survivor of this once-prominent industry, and while business is no longer what is used to be, the factory continues to utilise traditional production methods to keep the industry alive.