"The fondaci in Alexandria were large buildings of two stories surrounding a courtyard. Each merchant community had a separate facility, the Catalans from Barcelona, Valencia, and Majorca; the Provencaux from Marseilles; the Venetians; and the Genoese. They were built with a single well-guarded entrance for protection in case of riots or other disturbances, but so were all important buildings holding valuable property, whether belonging to Muslims, Jews, or Christians. The ground floor was used for stables and for storing goods purchased and awaiting the arrival of ships to transport them to Europe. The upper stories served as places of lodging. Spices and other Eastern goods were piled in the storerooms in different kinds of containers depending on their value. Relatively inexpensive spices like pepper, ginger, and sugar were shipped in large sacks weighing a hundred pounds or so. Rarer spices were wholesaled by the pound and came in boxes of about fifty pounds wrapped with canvas (typically cinnamon), or in jars (cloves, which were more perishable and expensive). The volatile and extremely valuable perfumed substances (musk, ambergris) were packed in small metal boxes where they were kept once they had been purchased until ready for shipment."
Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 113.
Another usage/origins note can be found on fondaco.