The Mali Empire ruled the African continent back in the 14th century under the command of Mansa Musa. They are one of the greatest empires of that time; although it was not the biggest like the Roman Empire, they were an essential piece economically and religiously.

Mansa Musa The First, the richest man who ever lived allegedly, ruled the Mali Empire for 25 years between 1312 and 1337 and led them to prosperity and profound development. There were not many African empires, but the Mali Empire was one of the most important. Mansa Musa was a significant Emperor and Conqueror of that time, and he is still remembered to this day for all of his achievements and his lavish lifestyle and wealth.

13 Mansa Musa facts

1. How did Mansa Musa gain his fortune?

At his peak, Mansa Musa ruled over regions or parts of modern-day Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad. The Mali Empire dates back from 1230 to 1670, which makes up almost 500 years of battles, conquests, problems, prosperity, etc. They were an enormous African Empire and the primary influence of the whole West African region. They developed over time, starting as a small city along the Niger River, and quickly took over lands and cities to establish one of Africa’s biggest Islamic empires. Nowadays, the remnants of what the Mali Empire used to be can be found in books, traditions, cultures, and architecture.

2. How did Mansa Musa affect the Mali Empire?

Mansa Musa took the throne after his predecessor died. He was the first ruler from the Laye lineage and established the Empire as a true Islamic state. However, he did not force or impose anyone to adopt Islam. His entire adult life was dedicated to his job as Emperor, Ruler, and Conqueror to keep the Empire at bay and stable. He conquered over 24 cities in ten countries from West Africa. His military actions were intense at some times and very consistent. He seized quite a bit of the region, including some parts of the Sahara Desert. Other than Napoleon, Julius Caesar, or Alexander The Great, there are not many men who conquered so many cities.

3. Mansa Musa founded the first University in the region.

Mansa Musa made sure that his kingdom was prosperous, safe, and large. He was an avid Islamic believer but, at the same time, a promoter for education and learning. Musa learned the importance of development and innovation in his travels and battles, so he founded the first University in Timbuktu. Musa also started massive building programs for raising mosques and madrasas, educational institutions.

An Arab that climaxed with the University at Zen core, where they brought in jurists, astronomers, mathematicians, and Islamic professors. The University became a center of learning and arts with Muslim students from around Africa and the Middle East. They had the largest collection of books in Africa since the Library of Alexandria, burned with over 1 million manuscripts, and the capacity of housing 25,000 students.

4. Mansa Musa’s Empire was the largest gold producer in the world.

With great knowledge and power comes great fortune. The Mali Empire had a vast advantage of residing along the Niger River and the Niger Delta. Every successful Empire started with a good river because water means life, food, and trade. They traded salt and gold to others while growing crops and sustaining life, and by the time he became the Emperor of Mali, and began conquering more and more territories.

More and more people knew about him and his kingdom with a good location and opening up to the Atlantic Ocean. They managed to turn Mali into one of the most prominent trading regions in the world. They were selling gold and salt. At a time when Europe was struggling to obtain and hold both of them. Opportunity indeed was their best weapon.

5. Mansa Musa’s net worth was over 400 billion dollars.

Trading with gold and owning so much land made Mansa Musa the richest Emperor of the Mali Empire and the richest man that ever lived. His wealth is estimated to have been around 400 billion dollars, which is a lot more than the richest man has right now. Some people consider him the richest man in the world because most sources from that time ranked him that way. We will never precisely know if he was that rich or not, it is kind of impossible, but keeping in mind all the achievement he did in his lifetime, it does not seem that far-fetched.

6. Diplomacy and Religion.

Mansa Musa was well known in his kingdom and throughout Africa. He was rich, fierce, powerful, and a luxury lover. He always traveled in style, wearing the finest and most expensive clothing in his pilgrimage to Mecca. He stayed in Egypt, where he spent a lot of money and caused some severe damage to the kingdom. He almost feuded with the Sultan al Nasir because Mansa Musa was too critical of him. Nothing wrong happened between them, but they were both close to bursting. Diplomacy and religion never play nicely together.

7. Mansa Musa’s massive fortune was dismantled after two generations.

Mansa Musa had over four hundred billion dollars, and it seems impossible to spend it all. No matter how much we build and travel, there are still billions to spend. Unfortunately, from Mansa Musa’s descendants, the fortune was somehow dismantled in less than 100 years. The two generations that followed him could not control their spending, the wars, and invasions that followed. After his pilgrimage, it was no surprise that everyone came upon them to get their hands on the gold, especially Europeans, who were facing harsh famine and poverty at the time.

8. When did Mansa Musa die?

Mansa Musa was the tenth ruling Sultan of the Mali Empire. He was a beloved Emperor and one of the most influential figures in the continent’s history: a dedicated Muslim. He invited many Arab storytellers and historians to have their story written for prosperity and generations to come. The biggest problem with this was that his death date is now unknown, or at least debatable.

There is a gap period between 1325 and 1337, in which historians cannot tell when he died. Some say it was right after his pilgrimage, and some say it was after his son took the throne. Multiple sources mean multiple theories.

9. Mansa Musa went on an extravagant and expensive pilgrimage for two years to Mecca.

One of the most famous things Mansa Musa is known for doing is expanding the Mali Empire and his pilgrimage to Mecca as a Muslim. You have to go at least once to Mecca in one’s life, so he did, as The Quran says. His pilgrimage to Mecca took two years because they did not have modern transportation means to get there. Four thousand miles away from home.

He took 1,000 attendants, 100 camels loaded with gold, plenty of the Emperor’s personal musicians, and 500 slaves bearing gold staffs. His epic pilgrimage was done in style and suited for an emperor, and it simply would not have been royal enough to take a modest carriage to Mecca. This shows again just how rich he was.

10. Mansa Musa built the unique Djinguereber Mosque, which still stands today.

One of the landmarks that still stands today as proof of his existence is the unique Mosque of Djinguereber, which was completed in 1327. The ancient Mali city close to the Niger River. The whole construction took over two years to finalize, and approximately 45 kilograms of gold. The man behind the design was paid two hundred kilograms of gold for his work.

The building is now part of the University of Timbuktu and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since it is so old and made out of natural elements, the building is endangered due to sand erosion. Terrorists attacked the mosque in 2012, who claimed that “The shrine is a sin and therefore should be destroyed.”

11. Mali Empire was a very safe place for anyone.

Nowadays, people avoid traveling in some parts of the world because of crime rates, violence, and war. We still cannot enjoy all the marvelous places, cultures, and regions of the world because it is simply not safe. Things were not so different back in the 14th century either, except for the Mali Empire.

Even Ibn Battuta, a renowned Moroccan writer who traveled extensively through Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, was highly impressed by the peace and security he experienced during his visit to Mali. Travelers, visitors, citizens, and traders lived peacefully because robbers and violent people were shown no mercy. Radical measures do pay off sometimes.

12. Mansa Musa was included in the Catalan Atlas.

Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca was the event that made him famous all over the world. After people heard how he traveled and spent his money, they wanted to know him, see him and do business with him. Of course, there were also some that wanted to rob him because he had a lot of gold and precious minerals. He was included in the famous Catalan Atlas in 1375, one of the most important world maps of medieval Europe.

He also sparked a lot of controversy and interest for the Spanish, Portuguese, and Germans. He shaped the entire European view of Mali as a place of splendor, wealth, and sophistication they could get their hands on.

13. Mansa Musa’s spending led to gold inflation in Egypt.

Some stories mention he used to gift his travel companions and unfortunate ones. There is a quote mentioning, “At each halt, he would regale us with rare foods and confectionery, his equipment and furnishings were carried by twelve thousand private slave women, wearing gowns of brocade and Yemeni silk.

Another story of his travel puts him into financial difficulties due to his spending and donations in Egypt. He caused mass inflation on the market. It took the city of Cairo years to recover from the currency crisis fully, Mansa Musa created during his stay.

Learn more here: Mansa Musa


Historical Figures
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