The Middle East has been recognized as a source of exotic spices for millennia. But what many don't know is that the Land of Israel was an integral part of the booming spice trade.
During Solomon's reign, Israel was a crossroads for trade throughout the then-civilized world. It remained so during the following centuries, though with lessened importance, until the people known as the Nabateans established an important trade route bringing spices from the Arabian Peninsula to the peoples of the Roman Empire.
The Nabateans built a long series of way-stops and impressive fortified cities along the Spice Route, the remains of which can still be visited in southern Israel. The Nabateans transformed the Land of Israel into a gateway to what was (until the discovery of oil) the Middle East's most valued commodity.
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In 2005, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Israel's Spice Route to its World Heritage List.
While the old Spice Route is no longer in use, having been replaced by modern transportation methods, Israel remains an ideal place to sample the various spices for which our region is so famous.
In shuks (open air markets) throughout Israel, one can find exotic spices from places as far flung as southern Arabia to Iran (Persia) to distant India. Only in Israel can one truly "taste" the entire Middle East!
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