You might not think the Arab world has much to do with México, but it’s true. The architecture, cuisine, and especially the language of México have all been shaped by the Arab world. The reason? The Moors (Muslim people group of Arab descent) invaded Spain back in the 8th century. Their stay in that country for several centuries impacted the Spanish culture, which in turn impacted the Mexican culture when the Spaniards sailed across the Atlantic and landed in México.
The Spanish language has several thousand words with Arabic roots and if you know Arabic, I’m sure you could pick out a lot of them. Here is a just a short list of some of the more common words:
Alfombra = Carpet
Almohada = Pillow
Atún = Tuna (not to be confused with tuna, which is the fruit of the cactus plant)
Azul = Blue
Azúcar = Sugar
Café = Coffee
Hasta = Until (as used in the phrase “hasta la vista, baby“)
Loco = Crazy
Naranja = Orange
Ojalá = Hopefully (from the Arabic expression “Inshallah” or “if Allah will it.”)
Sandía = Watermelon
Tarea = Homework or Task
Zanahoria = Carrot
Not only does the Spanish language have Arabic connections, but the architecture and cuisine as well. You’ll see a lot of domes, arches, and mosaic floors in México – signs of Arabic influence. Some of the popular spices here, like cumin and cinnamon, are products of the Moorish invasion, and more recently Middle Eastern cuisine has added its own flavors to México. The best example of this is “Tacos al Pastor” which is basically shawarma on a corn tortilla. All over town you can see the slabs of meat slowly roasting on a metal spit, just waiting to be shaved off, placed on a warm tortilla, and topped with salsa, onions, cilantro and pineapple – definitely an important, and delicious, addition to Mexican cuisine.
So that’s what Arabia has to do with México.