Nablus, the soap-city
A CENTURY-OLD TRADITION THAT CONTINUES IN THE WEST BANK DESPITE THE DIFFICULTIES
Located about sixty kilometres north of Jerusalem, the city of Nablus became famous as one of the main battlegrounds between the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the Palestinians during the Second Intifada. However, until the early twentieth century, this city was known for its soap factories – exporting in the Arab world and in Europe a unique product of its kind; it is said that this was the soap choice for Queen Elizabeth of England.Traditionally made by women for domestic use, the soap produced in Nablus – also known as Nablusi – is still entirely produced by hand according to a tradition dating back to the Middle Age. The Nablusi is one of the most natural cosmetic products on the market made with purely olive oil, water and caustic soda.
Sales of the soap fell in the years 2000-2005 because of the closure regime put into place during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the United Nations, in 2002 many buildings, including some of the historical soap factories in the old town of Nablus, were destroyed by bombing and by IDF bulldozers, paralysing the city’s economy. Today only two factories of the original 30 are still running. Yet, Nablus continues to produce its famous soap despite the difficulties. The products of the historical Touqan factory fill not only the shelves of shops in Nablus and in the West Bank, but can also be found in Jordan, Kuwait, and the Palestinian cities in Israeli territories such as Nazareth.