Greek women bathing
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Muslims learned about bathing soap and bay laurel fragrance from the Greeks.
The Aleppo bar soap was made from olive oil, sodium hydroxide and the fragrance of bay laurel (the same fragrance used in ancient Greek spas).

The ancient Greeks had rubbed their bodies with oil or soap;  their healing spas had bathing in a water infusion of bay laurel. Romans manufactured both liquid soap and bar soap, but did not use soap for bathing but instead to clean eating utensils and as a pomade to make their hair neat.

In the 2nd century, the physician Galen of Pergamon (129 – 199) in the Roman colony of Alexandria prescribed using soap for cleaning your body and your clothes to prevent skin diseases.

Aleppo (in what is now Syria) had been a Greek-speaking Christian city when soap was being manufactured there prior to the year 600. It had remained a Christian city (except for its brief rule by Persian Zoroastrians from 608 until 622) until its conquest in 637 by Muslim Arabs who did not know about soap.

Muslims in Aleppo later became famous for making soap that contained bay laurel (the same fragrance used centuries earlier in Greek bathing).

The Romans bathed frequently at public baths. This practice was continued in the Greek eastern (Byzantine) half of the Roman Empire but was discontinued in western Europe. Some medieval Europeans bathed once a week but some bathed only once a year.

Muslims copied from the Byzantines the practice of frequent bathing at public baths.

In addition, Sunni Muslims washed their feet, arms and face before each of the 5 daily prayers.

Image of 5th century BC Greek pottery
image credit

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