A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

scrub-a-dub Saturday and Sunday

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 12, 2009

Sniff, sniff, my nose went this weekend as I toweled off after my shower. I’ve changed soaps, and now I smell like a hammam – in a good way.

When I was home in Iowa over Christmas, I found a few blocks of soap that I had purchased in Damascus a few years ago. “Aged” soap might not sound as appealing as “aged” wine or cheese, but I don’t think it goes stale. (Any soap experts out there?)


As you can see, the soap was made in Aleppo, and while it has no laurel, it does leave a lovely scent of olive oil on my skin. I’ve been missing the Levant recently, and my new-old soap has made me feel both closer to and further from the region.


4 Responses to “scrub-a-dub Saturday and Sunday”

  1. This is what we call “saboon baladi”, it is made from olive oil 🙂

  2. Kheireddine, you are right – that’s exactly what this soap is.

    And sabon, for those of you who are historically inclined, is related to the French word “savon” and our word “soap”:

    O.E. sape “soap” (originally a reddish hair dye used by Gmc. warriors to give a frightening appearance), from W.Gmc. *saipo- “dripping thing, resin” (cf. M.L.G. sepe, W.Fris. sjippe, Du. zeep, O.H.G. seiffa, Ger. seife “soap,” O.H.G. seifar “foam,” O.E. sipian “to drip”), from PIE base *seib- “to pour out, drip, trickle” (cf. L. sebum “tallow, suet, grease”). Romans and Greeks used oil to clean skin; the Romance language words for “soap” (cf. It. sapone, Fr. savon, Sp. jabon) are from L.L. sapo (first mentioned in Pliny), which is a Gmc. loan-word, as is Finnish saippua. The meaning “flattery” is recorded from 1853. The verb is first attested 1585. Soapstone (1681) is occasionally used for cleaning.

    Source: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=s&p=30

  3. intlxpatr said

    Ha Ha! Lucky for you, there is soap-knowledge in the family. Aging soap only gets better. As it dries out, it lasts longer. Some soap makers suggest you tuck it in your underwear drawer while you are waiting to use it, so all you undies have that clean smell. 🙂

    Did Sporty ever give you any of the soap from the nunnery featured in the Hannibal Lecter story? It is the very nicest soap I have ever had. I still have one bar I can’t bear to use!

  4. “the soap from the nunnery featured in the Hannibal Lecter story”? Um, no – she’s never mentioned it. Why do I miss all the interesting family gatherings :D?

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