For years making soap has been a tradition for the people living in Hatay. Known for its ability to heal the skin, soap from Hatay is favored for containing olive oil and laurel, known as defne (daphne) in Turkish.
The legend told by locals says that years ago the Greek God Apollo saw Daphne and fell in love with her. When she fled he followed her. When she realized there was no way to escape she prayed to Mother Earth for protection and was transformed into a Laurel tree.
Historically the ingredients for the soap were boiled over a wood burning fire. The mixture was poured into a pan where it cooled and formed a solid sheet of soap. The sheet of soap was cut into individual bars and wrapped for distribution.
Although today some of the soap made in Hatay is manufactured in large facilities, many people still make soap at home.
Professor Kenneth M. Cuno is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who researches, teaches and writes about the history of the modern Middle East. He spoke to our class about the Ottoman Empire and Turkey today. Throughout his lecture he discussed the relationship between Islamic institutions and the state during the Ottoman Period and the 20th century. Religious endowments, education and the legal equality of law all contributed to a shift in the relationship between mosque and state. Cuno also discussed how the Ottoman Empire was destroyed during the first World War as well as how the Turkish Republic was formed in 1923. Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk helped modernize Turkey and move the country toward westernized principles. In the 1920s the Republican People’s Party encouraged a change in ideology and shifted the country from an Islamic identity to a Turkish national identity. After WWII Turkey democratized and started holding multi party elections.