Mansa Musa: One Of The Richest Men To Ever Live.
In 2012, Celebrity Net Worth released an article of their 25 richest people who ever lived (after adjusting for inflation), and Musa I of Mali has come out on top at a worth of 400 billion. This is quite the feat, however, it is also a sad reminder: because thanks to a very eurocentric educational system, most Americans have never, and will never hear of Musa and many other interesting facets of history that remain in the dark, for that very fact. Nonetheless, to those that have heard about him and the splendor of his reign, his story is truly astounding.
It is said that Musa was the grandson or grandnephew of King Sundiata, who was a West African Monarch that established the Mali empire. Upon inheriting the throne in 1312, Musa was given the name Mansa, which means King. Much of Musa’s wealth came from the vast natural resources, such as salt, that his Empire possessed.
During his reign, Musa greatly expanded the reaches of the empire by recapturing Gao, which was the capital of the prosperous Songhai empire. Subsequently, the Mali empire would grow to possess what is now the countries of: Gambia, Mauritania, Chad, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea, and Nigeria. It is stated that the empire stretched around 2,000 miles; the famous world traveller, Ibn Battutah, chronicled that it took him around 4 months to journey from the northern border of the empire to the city of Niani in the south.
During the time Musa came into power, certain segments of Europe were stated to have been in the middle of what would later be coined the “dark ages” by Petrarch and other writers. However, a number of African Kingdoms were prospering, Musa’s kingdom being one of them.
In the the year, 1324, Musa would make his illustrious pilgrimage to Mecca, and through his pilgrimage, much of North Africa and Europe, would come to know of the wealth that Mali possessed. It is stated that Musa was accompanied by thousands, some even say 60,000, civilians, servants, and soldiers. Of this group, he possessed hundreds of servants dressed in fine persian silks, carrying golden staffs, along with over 80 camels, each carrying 300 pounds of gold.
Musa was a devout muslim, and took his faith quite seriously, observing generous practices such as donation of money to the poor, perhaps even to a fault. Because while in Cairo, Egypt he gave away so much gold that he ended up flooding the market, which resulted in the value of gold plummeting, causing mass inflation. Musa would then take back some of the gold at high rates of interest to try and adjust the value, yet, it would still take more than a decade for the city to recover. Nonetheless, Musa’s kindness was very well received by the people, so much so, that over a decade later when historian Chihab-al-Umari visited Cairo, the people were still singing Musa’s praises.
Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca would have an extraordinary impact on the Mali Empire, especially on the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. You see, on the way back, he visited the city of Timbuktu, and transformed it into a bustling epicenter for learning and trade. He accomplished this by bringing back Muslim architects, teachers, and officials, along with a vast number of books.
These valuable resources helped him create a variety of beautiful structures, such as: the Djinguereber Mosque (which still stands to this day), and also the University of Sankore, which became an extremely prestigious learning center, from which African, Asian, and European students would gain quality educations.
Mansa Musa’s time of death is somewhat unclear, as some scholars have it at 1332, some at 1335, while others claim it was 1337. Regardless, the life of Mansa Musa expanded the prosperity of a strong empire into an absolute world power of it’s time.