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Different countries’ regions all have their specialities, whether it’s their cuisine, their culture or their arts and crafts. Provence obviously has lots of all three, but at the Marseille Soap Museum in Salon-de-Provence it’s a local industry that has pride of place.

Cubed Marseille soap like this is on sale in the factory shop

Source: http://www.musee-savon-marseille.com

Marseille soap is a distinctive hard soap that’s made from vegetable oils (very often from olive oil) and seawater from the Mediterranean. Frequently shaped into cubes, it’s available in a whole range of sizes, from a few 100 grams up to 20 kilograms or even more. As you’ll see in the picture below, each cube bears the stamp of its maker, and a number of the old boxwood stamps used to mark the soap in this way are amongst the prize exhibits in the museum. Other stars of the show include period machinery, tools and advertising posters. One of the features of the museum is its location in the Marius Fabre soap factory, which is still operational today. A trip to the museum can be combined with a tour of the factory, and if you like what you see (and smell), there’s a gift shop where you can purchase a range of Marius Fabre soaps.