The age-old story of soap

The art of soap-making is a tradition for the Yüksel family, who have been producing natural soaps for centuries in Mardin, the historical city that bears the traces of several civilisations

We are going to Mardin, the cradle of civilisations and the oldest site of settlement in Mesopotamia, which has been a homeland for many powerful civilisations and peoples throughout history. A 30-square metre workshop on the second street is attracting attention thanks to the beautiful fragrance wafting out of it. It is Mardin Soap World, where the colourful soaps produced naturally under the supervision of soap maker Mehmet Yüksel immediately make people want to buy them. When we ask Mehmet Yüksel’s son, brand manager Necmettin Yüksel, how and when they started making soap, he tells us that soap-making has been a family profession passed down from generation to generation for many ages. Explaining that their vision is to promote Mardin soaps around the world, Yüksel emphasises that their main aim is ‘to wash the whole world with natural soaps’.

Yüksel says they produce 24 tonnes of soap a year, using olive oil, kaolin, oak ash, and terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus). There are 55 different varieties of soap using other natural additives beyond these main ingredients.

These soaps are a true source of healing; they have a medicinal effect on various skin diseases. When we ask about their most popular soap out of the 55, Yüksel holds a long list in front of us. While the most-wanted soaps vary from country to country, in general the most popular ones are the terebinth, almond, bay laurel, nettle, kaolin, sulphur, rose, and nigella soaps.

Yüksel says that while Arab countries are mostly interested in the terebinth soap, European countries prefer the bay laurel, almond, snake oil, argan, snail oil, and pearl powder soaps. They receive many orders from countries including France, Germany and Denmark, and Yüksel says that French women in particular prefer soaps produced from snake and snail oils. Beyond its anti-wrinkle properties, snake oil soap helps to remove skin blemishes, dark/black spots, chapped skin and wrinkles by giving a natural glow to the skin. It also supports the healing of skin lesions and has a revitalising effect on the skin. Each natural soap helps with different ailments; for example, terebinth soap helps wounds to heal faster, kidney stones pass more easily, and stomach aches heal. The nettle soap, on the other hand, removes not only dead cells on the skin but also helps to heal skin problems. It also offers just the right solution for scalp problems such as dandruff.

Noting that foreign customers have shown a strong interest in their soaps, Yüksel says that they also send soaps abroad as orders come in. That’s right – you don’t have to go to Mardin to benefit from these medicinal soaps. Yüksel has opened the doors of his family’s workshop to the whole world so that people from all countries benefit from these unequalled sources of healing.