Cinnamon is a small evergreen tree 10–15 metres tall and is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. especially in cooking as a condiment and flavourant. It is also used in the preparation of chocolate and some kinds of desserts, such as apple pie and cinnamon buns as well as spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in Persian cuisine. In the Middle East, it is often used in savoury dishes of chicken and lamb.
Cinnamon has been known from ancient times, and it was so highly prized that it was regarded as a gift fit for rulers. Up to the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery to the Western world. Muslim Arabs established a monopoly on trading in cinnamon, and kept its origin a secret for hundreds of years. The first mention of the spice growing in Sri Lanka was in Zakariya al-Qazwini's Athar al-bilad wa-akhbar al-‘ibad in about 1270. Arab traders brought the spice via overland trade routes to Alexandria in Egypt, where it was bought by Venetian traders from Italy who held a monopoly on the spice trade in Europe. At the beginning of the sixteenth century European colonialists finally broke the Muslim monopoly by capturing the countries where cinnamon was grown.
Today Muslim Indonesia produces 40% of the world's Cassia genus of cinnamon. Cinnamon bark is one of the few spices that can be consumed directly. Cinnamon: yet another item for which the world needs to thank the Muslims for preserving.