Tuqan Soap Factory
The soap factory is located in the southwestern corner of al-Tuta Square in the middle of the Qaryun Quarter in the old city of Nablus, Nablus, Palestinian Territories
The end of hegira 13th century / AD 19th century
The Tuqan Soap Factory is a large, rectangular in plan, two-storey stone building. The principle façade of the building is sparsely decorated. A large portal located on the ground floor level facilitates both the entry of oil used in soap manufacture, as well as the exit of finished soap products. Above the entrance there is a pointed arch, both sides of which are flanked by a number of small-sized windows. The upper section of the façade has been worked into a series of large windows that end with tapered arches. The windows allow light and air into the second floor of the soap factory, assisting in ventilation and facilitating soap drying.
It is possible to enter the first floor of the factory by means of a large door. This level is composed of a long hall with a high ceiling that is supported by cross-vaults; these in turn are supported by stone piers. The soap is made on this level in a spacious area called al-balat (the hall). The oil, used to make the soap, is preserved and stored in a well; the soap-making process itself takes place in a large copper pot.
A stairwell located on the southeast side of the factory leads to the second level, composed of a wide hall called al-mafrash where the sticky soap matter is left to dry. The ceiling on this level forms a series of successive shallow domes supported by arches which, in turn, are supported by columns.
The soap industry is considered to be a traditional and important one in the city of Nablus, where the number of soap factories at the beginning of the 20th century numbered around 30. Historically the owners of soap factories in Nablus have included political leaders, nobility, powerful merchants and scholars ('ulama). Their active interest in advertising the soap they produced led to a broader market, especially those in the Arab regions such as Egypt and Syria.
The soap factory is located in the heart of old Nablus and is part of the soap industry on which Nablus has thrived since the AH 11th / AD 17th century. It consists of a large, rectangular, functional, two-storey building, devoid of decoration. The ground floor has offices, pots for making the soap and oil wells. The upper storey is composed of a wide hall with many windows which is used to spread out the soap and to dry, cut and wrap it. Nablus soap was renowned throughout the Arab East and also reached Europe. It was known for its high quality.
The building was dated by comparing its architectural and decorative elements, together with the popular traditional mode of the building, with others in the area of the same style. This architectural style predominated in the later Ottoman period.
Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza, pp.171–3.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Tuqan Soap Factory" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;16;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-NatshehYusuf al-Natsheh
Yusuf Said Natsheh is a Palestinian and since 1997 he has been Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology in al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University. He was educated in Jerusalem and Cairo and in 1997 obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Natsheh is a council member of many Palestinian societies for architectural heritage and a consultant for various projects on Jerusalem. He has written books and more than 40 articles about Jerusalem's architectural heritage including the architectural survey of Ottoman architecture in R. Hillenbrand and S. Auld (eds) Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000). He has contributed to many international and national conferences. He supervised the restoration project, sponsored by the Arab League, on Mamluk monuments in and around al-Haram al-Sharif, and was Palestinian expert for the UNESCO mission to Jerusalem in 2004.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 16
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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