Despite the near-ubiquity of shower gel, we remain loyal to soap. There’s just something so satisfying about the heft and scent of a really good bar of soap in your hands that no gel, no matter how nicely packaged or scented, can replace. Unwrapping a fresh bar always makes us think of the way Truman Capote described Holly Golightly: “For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness.” You can’t exactly replace “soap” with “shower gel” in that sentence, can you?
Our latest soap discovery is Senteurs d’Orient. Based in Lebanon, where they’ve been making soap for 6,000 years, it celebrates the ritual of bathing. As it was conceived of in the Middle East, bathing was a luxurious, leisurely process: Women would congregate in the hammam (public bathhouse) to socialize, relax and get clean. Sounds more appealing than a quick morning shower, doesn’t it? While we can’t give you the extra hours in your day for that kind of downtime, we can promise that Senteurs d’Orient soaps, which are made from the purest vegetal oils, ultra-moisturizing shea butter and hand-picked flowers and blossoms using a combination of traditional and modern techniques, will bring a sense of luxury and calm to your morning ablutions. (Prince Charles seems to think so—they’re sold at his eco-luxury shop at the royal Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire).
And, for that extra feel-good sensation, beginning this year, the company is working with the United Nations to donate proceeds from sales of its products to educate women in Lebanon. We’re offering two Senteurs d’Orient options: a trio of soaps-on-a-rope in three heady fragrances (Tuberose, Amber and Tea Tree) and a very prettily put-together hammam gift set. The set includes a silver hammam bowl (a replica of one used in the 1920s by women to bathe their children), three guest soaps in Rose of Damascus, Orange Blossom and Amber; a special edition soap in Jasmine; Jasmine bath salts; a pumice stone and a loofah mitt.