…asks reader Will. That’s the sort of question I really, really dig, reader Will. The reason is simply because Arabs are legendary traders, blessed by happenstance to be situated right on the receiving end of history’s ultimate wholesale supply line: the Silk Road. The Silk Road — which wasn’t actually one road but a network of trade routes — stretched for some 4,000 miles from the Pacific coast of China all the way to the Mediterranean.
These days the “Silk Road” is considered to have had both land routes and sea routes. However if you take a look at a map you can see where all of them converged: the Middle East. That made the Arabs the middlemen, as it were, between East and West. They received everything from textiles, perfumes, jewels and slaves to produce, sugar and spices, and either made use of all the loot themselves or passed it on to the Europeans with a markup.
That is, assuming they weren’t at war with the Europeans, which they frequently were, especially during those oh, whaddyacallems…Crusades. But once those were over there was that little thing called the Ottoman Empire which was’t terribly friendly with the West much of the time. Thus you had a situation where, at least for much of the late Middle Ages and after, you had a lot of on-again-off-again goods flow from the Far East to Europe.
By comparison, spices were quite commonplace in the MIddle East, which I think is why you see so much more spice in their cooking.