Mansa Musa was the tenth Mansa, which can be translated as “sultan”, “conqueror”, or “emperor”, of the wealthy West African Mali Empire.
Mansa Musa was the deputy of Abubakari Keita II, the King who went on missing after expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean. Mansa Musa came to throne after Abubakari failed to return.
Musa was a devoted Muslim, his pilgrimage to Mecca made him well-known across northern Africa and Middle East. According to Musa, Islam was “entry into cultured world of Mediterranean”. Musa rule came when European nations were struggling due to raging civil wars and a lack of resources. During that time, the Mali Empire was flourishing.
His voyage, which would span an estimated 4,000 miles to Mecca, was travelled by Musa and a caravan that included tens of thousands of soldiers, slaves and heralds, draped in Persian silk and carrying golden staffs. Musa’s caravan was long as much as the eyes could see. Musa’s convoy marched alongside camels and horses carrying hundreds of pounds of gold.
The impact he left on the Egyptian people would reverberate for more than a decade.
From markets of Cairo to royals and the impoverished people that crossed his path in Egypt, Musa’s generosity and purchase of foreign goods left the streets littered with gold, a resource that was highly appreciated and in short supply. The people were thrilled at first. Though well intentioned, Musa’s gifts of gold actually depreciated the value of the metal in Egypt, and the economy took a major hit. It took 12 years for the community to recover.
On his way he was not only giving but conquering other territories such that of Gao within the Songhai kingdom, extending his territory to the southern end of Saharan Desert along the Niger River. He would go on to acquire several territories, including present day Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mali and Mauritania.
However, Gao would be of significant importance to the King. This territory in today’s Mali, is where Musa would build one of several mosques after completing his Haji. Timbuktu was also important city to the King, he used his wealth to build schools, universities, libraries, and mosques there. The burgeoning trading hub was where Musa commissioned the Djinguereber Mosque, a famed place built of mud brick and wood that has stood there and remained active for more than 500 years.
Musa’s wealth and influence only spread beyond Africa after his voyage to Mecca. Tales of his enormous convoy and generosity continued to be passed on long after his death.
From the abundance of natural resources he cultivated to the growth and development of communities that he left behind, Musa has a legend that could give the fictional Black Panther a run for his money. It is nearly impossible to quantify the riches that Musa had during his lifetime.