As the Age of Discovery dawned and both Vasco Da Gama and Christopher Columbus raced in opposite directions to be the first to discover a sea route to the Indies, the eyes of the world all rested on the Malabar Coast. This was a source of spices from time immemorial, and spices were as economically important in the Middle-Ages as oil is for us today.

The Mappila Arabs had a long-standing monopoly over the European spice trade. Christian Europe was cut off from the East by Islam leaving Arabian merchants free to take advantage of the cyclical monsoon winds to blow them to and from the Malabar Coast of India.

As Oil Wars have been fought in our day, so during the Middle Ages, Spice Wars were fought over this part of the world and the world shifted on their outcome. You may take for granted the black pepper languishing on your dining room table, but there was a time when vast prices were paid, in blood and gold for that humble commodity, as well as for nutmeg, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves etc.

When Vasco Da Gama arrived at Kappad Beach, near Calicut, in 1498 he marked the beginning of a European colonial presence in India that passed in turn from the Portuguese to the Dutch to the British as the fortunes of each Empire waxed and waned. It captured the Arab monopoly of the spice routes and so shifted the economic power in the region.

Watch this space for exciting Spice Trail holidays, recreating the experience of those ancient traders.