To anyone who ever travels to Turkey and wants to get their loved ones from back home gifts other than the evil eye amulets, and still keep an affordable budget, Turkish soap is your best bet. A 600 hundred year-old tradition in Turkey, soap goes hand in hand with the culture, which you can easily share with anyone who wants a sample of your travels. And the greatest thing about it is you can find Turkish soap anywhere you go.
Soap in itself has an interesting history. It’s said to be invented roughly 5,000 years ago in Ancient Babylon. Jump ahead to the Roman era, which dominated much of modern Turkey, and soap becomes slightly more developed among the society. The name soap comes from the Latin “sapo”, meaning tallow, a word for the fats that are obtained from the bodies of cattle, sheep, or horses. The reason for this is that these fats started to be used to create a larger abundance of soap, and with the common custom of animal and sometimes human sacrifices, these fats were used rather than laid to waste.
In medieval times, Arab and Persian chemists in the Muslim world produced the first soaps using natural vegetable and aromatic oils. This gave headway to the modern method of soap manufacturing, which became a developed product during Ottoman times. With a wealth of olive oil being abundant in the eastern Mediterranean, the Turks (as well as the Greeks) established large companies among the region, producing some of the finest soaps in the world.
The most beautiful aspect of the soap production in Turkey is that it has remained a natural product since the 1500’s. It is usually comprised of an olive oil base, salt, and with natural scents including lavender, rose, chamomile, thyme, and rose. In Istanbul or Izmir, you will find several stores and street vendors selling Turkish soaps. They are usually marketed with an all-natural atmosphere, presented in large blocks sitting on straw-grass, as if farmed straight from Anatolia. When looking to buy the soaps, one should make sure that the bars are a bit rustic looking, with color hue of olive green, white, and off-white. The bars are individually cut, and can either be sold by the kilo or bar.
However, the fortunate thing about buying the soap in Turkey is that it is available for an incredible price. Steer away from overpriced soaps however, as they cater to tourists. A good, valuable bar of soap should run no more than 2 to 3 liras, depending on the fragrance and the location it came from. Prices can certainly go up to 5 liras a bar for the more unique options, but really should not be more than that. If you want to get more bang for your buck, and maintain quality, you can simply walk into any grocery store or market, and pick up a pack of Dalan-brand olive oil soaps. One pack consists of about 5 thick bars, and goes for only 3.5 Liras! The bars are very good quality, and appear thick and somewhat moist, as they are handmade and all natural. This all-natural approach gives the bars distinct healing properties, which are known to strengthen hair and reduce skin diseases if used on a regular basis.
So when you wonder what to get all your friends during your gift shopping, keep Turkish olive oil soaps in mind. They’re made local (organic), smell great, and can be used by anyone.