Sunday, October 16, 2016

MANSA MUSA

A great king ruled Mali from 1312 to 1337 and his name was Mansa Musa. Crowned “Mansa”-meaning “king of Kings”- Mansa Musa was the grand-nephew of Sundiata. A Muslim himself, Mansa Musa embarked on the greatest Islamic pilgrimage by caravan ever recorded in history between the years 1324-1325 in a journey spanning thousands of miles through the stretch of the massive and expansive Sahara desert. Reputedly the most lavish pilgrimage in the world, Mansa Musa’s entourage carried 100 camel-loads of gold, each weighing 300 pounds; 500 slaves, each carrying a 4-lb. gold staff; thousands of his subjects; as well as his senior wife, with her 500 attendants. 

According to Arab historian Al-Umari, Mansa Musa and his retinue gave out so much gold such that the value of gold in Egypt drastically fell rendering the Egyptian economy in decline for many years. Al-Umari further states that Mansa Musa had to borrow from well-wishers at usurious interest rates for his return journey to Mali. In return, Mansa Musa brought back with him an Arabic library, religious scholars, and most importantly the renowned Muslim architect al-Sahili who built him a majestic royal palace and two great mosques at Gao and Timbuktu. In the aftermath of Mansa Musa’s travel to Mecca and Cairo, the Kingdom Mali became a center for commerce, education, and trade followed by diplomatic exchanges with Morocco and other Islamic nations. Mali enjoyed remarkable peace, stability, and profound prosperity for the forty-seven years between the time of his grandfather’s brother, Sundiata, and his accession to the throne. Mansa Musa ruled the Kingdom of Mali for twenty-five years finally leaving the political spectrum in 1337 when he died of natural causes. [i]

According to E.W. Bovill, author of The Golden Trade of Moors (1958), Mansa Musa’s kingdom was "remarkable both for its extent and for its wealth and a striking example of the capacity of the Negro for political organization". [ii]




[i] Roland Oliver, the African Experience: Major Themes in African History from Earliest Times to the Present, HarperCollins, 1993.

[ii] Edward William Bovill, The Golden Trade of the Moors: West African Kingdoms in the Fourteenth Century, Marcus Wiener; 2 edition (January 1995).

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