A Syrian soap-maker who fled Aleppo after the factory he worked in was bombed has set up shop in a Paris suburb, reviving a tradition he says dates back millennia.
Hassan Harastani left Syria in 2012, first for Lebanon and then two years later moving to France at the invitation of Samir Constantini, a Franco-Syrian doctor who was already importing the distinctive Aleppo soap.
“In Aleppo, this type of soap was manufactured maybe 3,000 years ago,” said Harastani, who markets his version – which he sells on the internet and through a shop in Angers in western France – under the brand name Alepia.
The soap is made from olive and laurel oil and water, with sodium hydroxide added to harden the mixture. It is cut by hand and left to dry for up to three years before being sold in bars weighing around 200 gram (7 ounce).
“Aleppo is stricken, people are outside in the streets, they don’t have homes… (This) is a way for us to continue to perpetuate tradition,” Constantini said.