Thyme Travel: History of Za’atar


Za’atar is one of the most ancient and traditional spice blends in the world with origins in levantine culture dating back to the 12th century. Zaatar is known and native to the Middle East because the plant has grown in the wild for as long or as old as the hills there. In recent past, it also has been cultivated in farms, and may be cultivated anywhere with Mediterranean climate. However, because Zaatar making is very labor intensive, it continues to favor the Middle East region because of its low labor costs. - currently Jordan is the world’s largest exporter of Za’atar

There is very little history on the spice because traditional Middle-Eastern women used to maintain secrecy over the secret ingredients and blends used in their kitchens.Not even shared with daughters.  Although, it is known that the history of Zaatar may date as back as Ancient Egyptian times. Thyme, oregano and savory are native plants of the Levant and grow pervasively in the Middle-East and is native to Greece and Palestine.

Wild Thyme is said to derive from the Greek word thumus, signifying courage thyme has long been held to invigorate and gird the soul. In medieval times thyme was a badge of bravery and energy and ladies would embroider a motif of a bee hovering over a sprig of thyme on the token they would give to their favoured knight. Indeed, thyme and bees have long been associated, and the honey made from bees that feed on thyme pollen has long been prized for its sweetness and fragrance. According to legend any place where thyme grows wild is a place blessed by the fairies, and the herb was (and possibly still is) used to purify a space in preparation for magic ritual.