Abdulfatah Sabouni has been in Calgary for about two years, but in a few weeks he hopes to open the doors to a new Syrian soap store which will showcase more than a century of family experience.
"For me, 25 years," Sabouni said, of his experience making Aleppo soap.
"It's my family job. Me and my father, and my grandfather and great-grandfather. Around 125 years."
Sabouni and family arrived in Calgary after about four years in Jordan. He's now completed a year of English language training and spent the last three months getting a soap factory up and running in the city's southeast.
"Syria has a war and many problems. It was not safe for my family," Sabouni explained.
"Before I came here, I didn't learn any English. I study English for one year here in school and after that we start the business."
Sabouni's business partners, Husny Hadry and Walid Balsha, have helped him every step of the way.
"We thought 'Let's get it going,'" Hadry explained.
"We started a factory and here we are working now and hopefully we will open soon."
He says beyond the Calgary store opening, the team has ambitious plans.
"We are going to do wholesale and retail across Canada, that's the goal. We are going to hopefully go across North America."
Sam Nammoura — of the Syrian Refugees Support Group — says he invited Sabouni to share his soap at a recent festival.
"We needed 10 vendors. What struck me, is that when people walked into the festival, he was the only vendor that everybody rushed to it," Nammoura said.
"He sold all of his soap. In two hours, all his product was gone. So I knew right then, there is really something here."
The store, Aleppo Savon, displays towers of soap in a variety of scents and colours. There's lavender, lemon, rose, orange and scent free.
Sabouni has been working long days, around 12 hours, to get his initial product supply ready to go. A big chunk of that time is spent stirring the soap in a huge kettle.
The soap is then poured into flat containers to harden, it's then cut, stamped and packaged. All of the soap is made with olive oil and coconut oil and each bar costs between $4 and $5 depending on the type and package size.
"We have two kinds of soap," Hadry explained.
"One that is cold-processed, which takes 20 days to cure, and another that is Aleppo soap, that takes five months to cure."
Sabouni says he's thrilled he was able to continue the family tradition in his new home.
"Many people like my soap. I am happy to make my job same, not different. More special, more special."
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