Sweet-Smelling Soaps

Apples, oranges, lemons and strawberries transformed to soaps in Edirne.

The history of soap dates far back in time. Assyrian tablets from the third millennium B.C. are known to describe techniques for making soap, a sine-qua-non of bodily cleanliness and bathing pleasure. The historical sources report the use of soap in the civilizations of Egypt and China, as well as in Anatolia’s historic Roman baths. Although the soap used today is largely mass-produced in factories, in Turkey there are handmade soaps made from olive oil in the Aegean region, bay leaf oil in Antakya (ancient Antioch), and oil of ‘bıttim’ (wild pistachio) in Siirt in the southeast
Soap in Edirne blooms like a flower and then ripens into fruit. The history of Edirne’s fruit soaps dates back to the Ottoman period, to the early 17th century when this soap, with its fruit fragrance and pleasing appearance, even made it into the imperial palace. The daughters of the sultans, the concubines and the other women of the palace vied with each to acquire these sweet-smelling fruit soaps for their trousseaus. The popularity of fruit soap in the palace made it a sought-after, high demand item in a tradition that continues today in the former Ottoman capital. In a debt of loyalty to Edirne’s long-standing soap-making tradition, one of the city’s oldest quarters is called Sabuni (from ‘sabun’, meaning soap).