Aleppo soapmaker escapes Syria, revives age-old tradition in Paris

Samir Constantini (left), chief executive officer and founder of Aleppo soap company Alepia, poses with soap maker Hassan Harastani in Santeny on Dec 19, 2016.
Samir Constantini (left), chief executive officer and founder of Aleppo soap company Alepia, poses with soap maker Hassan Harastani in Santeny on Dec 19, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Samir Constantini (left), chief executive officer and founder of Aleppo soap company Alepia, poses with soap maker Hassan Harastani in Santeny on Dec 22, 2016.
Samir Constantini (left), chief executive officer and founder of Aleppo soap company Alepia, poses with soap maker Hassan Harastani in Santeny on Dec 22, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Aleppo soap company Alepia soap maker Hassan Harastani checks the production in Santeny on Dec 19, 2016.
Aleppo soap company Alepia soap maker Hassan Harastani checks the production in Santeny on Dec 19, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
The reflection of Syrian master soapmaker Hassan Harastani is seen as he mixes olive oil and laurel oil with water and lye in Santeny on Dec 22, 2016.
The reflection of Syrian master soapmaker Hassan Harastani is seen as he mixes olive oil and laurel oil with water and lye in Santeny on Dec 22, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Syrian master soapmaker Hassan Harastani mixes olive and laurel oils with water and lye in Santeny on Dec 22, 2016.
Syrian master soapmaker Hassan Harastani mixes olive and laurel oils with water and lye in Santeny on Dec 22, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

SANTENY (REUTERS) - A Syrian soapmaker 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 gramme (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.