Harry and Meghan land in New Zealand on last leg of Pacific tour

Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after arriving at the Wellington International Airport Military Terminal in Wellington. (AFP)
Updated 28 October 2018
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Harry and Meghan land in New Zealand on last leg of Pacific tour

  • The British royals are now on the last leg of their 16-day, four nation tour

WELLINGTON: Prince Harry and Meghan arrived in Wellington Sunday to start the last leg of their 16-day, four-nation tour after attending the closing ceremony of the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex flew in from Australia on a Royal New Zealand Air Force flight carrying the Kiwi Invictus team.
They held hands as they left the aircraft and were greeted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Wellington mayor Justin Lester before mingling with the Invictus athletes.
They departed the airport for a traditional Maori welcome and reception at the residence of the Governor-General of New Zealand Patsy Reddy.
The visibly pregnant Duchess, with her hair in a bun, was wearing a black dress by ASOS Maternity and a calf-length brown chequered coat by Karen Walker.
Both royals were wearing a red poppy.
Harry and Meghan will visit a newly unveiled UK War Memorial in Wellington and later Sunday attend a 125th anniversary celebration of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.
Their itinerary over the following three days includes a hike and barbecue in the Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island, a reception with Ardern at Auckland War Memorial Museum and a visit to the popular North Island tourist resort of Rotorua.
​The couple will then head back to Auckland before flying out on Thursday to end their marathon tour which also took in Fiji and Tonga.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex earlier departed a windy Sydney airport, with Meghan wearing a burgundy dress.
Thousands of royal fans had turned out to greet the couple on their jam-packed visits to Sydney, Melbourne and the regional town of Dubbo.
The prince and Megan on Saturday attended the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games, the Olympic style sporting event for wounded soldiers that he helped found.​


The scent of soap making returns to Aleppo

Syrian businessman Ali Shami arranges olive soap bars in a factory on the outskirts of Aleppo. (AFP)
Updated 21 min 42 sec ago
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The scent of soap making returns to Aleppo

  • Shami carried out limited renovations — just enough to produce more than half of his pre-war output of around 800 tons a year

ALEPPO: After years of war, the scent of laurel oil once again wafts from a small soap workshop in Aleppo, signaling the revival of a landmark trade in the battered northern city.
Surrounding soap workshops in the Al-Nayrab district still lie in ruins, badly damaged in the four-year battle for the former opposition stronghold. But for Ali Shami, hanging up his apron was not an option.
“I never stopped making soap throughout the war — even if it was just a little,” says the 44-year-old, who fled his home city during the fighting.
“But this workshop is special,” he tells AFP. “It was here that I started more than 30 years ago.”
Shami reopened his soap workshop last month after shutting it down in 2012, when Syria’s second city became a main front in the eight-year-long conflict.
The scars of war are still visible on the building, its walls punctured with holes caused by shelling. Rushes of wind gust through the gaps.
Shami carried out limited renovations — just enough to produce more than half of his pre-war output of around 800 tons a year.
He installed a new metal door and refurbished the main rooms where the soap mixture is heated and then poured out to dry.
He watches as five workers stir a thick mixture of olive and laurel oil in a large vat.
Beside them, another five workers slice cooled and hardened green paste into cubes and stack them in staggered racks.
Shami says he was able to resume operations quickly because Aleppo soap is handmade.
Its production “relies on manual labor, a successful mixture, the passion of Aleppo’s residents, and their love of the profession,” he says.
After closing down in 2012, Shami tried to continue his work in other major Syrian cities. “My existence is tied to the existence” of soap, he says.
He moved to the capital, Damascus, and the regime-held coastal city of Tartous, but Shami says the soap was not as good.
“Aleppo’s climate is very suitable for soap production and the people of Aleppo know the secret of the trade and how to endure the hardship of the many stages of its production,” he says.
Shami, who inherited the soap business from his father and grandfather, boasts about the superior qualities of Aleppo soap, the oldest of its kind in the world.
“Aleppo soap distinguishes itself from other soaps around the world as it is made almost entirely of olive oil,” he says.
“European soap, on the other hand, includes animal fats, while soaps made in Asia are mixed with vegetal oils but not olive oil,” he says.
The Aleppo region is well-known for its olive oil and sweet bay oil, or laurel.
Shami says the Aleppo soap industry was hit hard by the fierce clashes that rocked his home city, before ending in late 2016 when the army took back opposition districts with Russian military support.
While conditions are less dangerous today, soap producers still grapple with shortages of raw material and skilled labor, he says.
“We are struggling with the aftermath of the battles,” he says.
Dozens of soap producers are still waiting to complete renovations before reopening their workshops. Hisham Gebeily is one of them.
His soap-making center in the Old City of Aleppo, named after the family, has survived for generations, dating back to the 18th century.
The three-story stone workshop covers a space of around 9,000 square meters, and is considered among the largest in the city.
But the 50-year-old man was forced to close it in 2012.
The structure still stands, although damaged by the fighting: Parts of it have been charred by shelling and wooden beams supporting the roof are starting to fall apart.
“Before the conflict, the city of Aleppo housed around 100 soap factories,” he says.