Aleppo soap is thought to be one of the world’s oldest types of soap, and also said to have been the inspiration for the equally famous Marseille soap of France. Even though claims of its ancient history are not fully understood, there are popular references to Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Queen Zenobia of Syria using Aleppo soap.
When fourth-generation soap maker Abdulfatah Sabouni fled from Syria to Canada, he brought the centuries-old art of soap making with him, “As a way of giving back to a city and country that has given him and his family so much” he explains on his website. Sabouni (whose last name even means “soap maker”) shared the story of Aleppo Savon with us, and some valuable advice.
What is the mission of Aleppo Savon?
We want to bring the beauty of Aleppo Soap to every corner of the world.
Tell us more about Aleppo soap. What is the process of making Aleppo soap?
The tradition of Aleppo soap making — which uses no chemicals or other additives —involves secret family recipes handed down for generations. In the 11th century, the Crusaders brought Aleppo soap back to Europe, starting a centuries-long love affair with the olive-oil and laurel oil based soap.
Due to the conflict in Syria, traditional soap factories in Aleppo were either destroyed or abandoned, creating a worldwide shortage of Aleppo soap. Newspaper headlines appeared in Europe, Saudi Arabia and Japan, where the soap is highly coveted.
When I arrived in Calgary two years ago, my entrepreneurial dreams were never far from my thoughts. I threw myself into learning English and got the ball rolling, and opened Aleppo Savon.
In addition to your own refugee experience, how has Aleppo Savon impacted the lives of others in the refugee community in Canada?
Being a refugee owned company, we consider it our duty to help other refugees as well. We have two other refugees working full time with us. Refugees might look different, sound different which is a big challenge [for] settling into a new country.
It’s been a tough couple of years for small businesses since the pandemic began. However, we’ve also seen a lot of progress and growth. Can you share an exciting accomplishment or development for Aleppo Savon?
The business continues to grow. We have big plans for distribution across Canada and North America. Our soap will be added to 6 new hotels in Banff very soon!
Although you’re relatively new to Canada, your family has been in the business of soap-making for generations. What is some wisdom that you can share with our readers?
“Imperfect action is always better than brilliant ideas.”
Thank you, Aleppo Savon, for sharing your story!
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