Mansa Musa

Early 1300s
Emperor of Mali

Mansa Musa was the most famous ruler of the ancient West African empire of MALI. During his reign the Mali empire reached its greatest size, extending hundreds of miles from north to south and from east to west. However, Mansa Musa is best remembered for his pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city of Islam, in 1325. The magnificence and riches he displayed on this trip dazzled people along the way.

Thought to be a descendant of SUNDJATA KEITA, the founder of the Mali empire, Mansa Musa took the throne in about 1312. He was educated in Arabic and followed the tradition of Malian rulers in making a pilgrimage to Mecca. To support his journey, Mansa Musa required contributions from the towns and provinces of his empire. In this way he amassed a treasure of gold and other riches to take with him.

Mansa Musa

Arriving in CAIRO in 1324, Mansa Musa astounded the inhabitants and the royal court of Cairo in EGYPT. According to accounts of the time, he came on horseback, superbly clothed, and followed by a procession of more than 10,000 followers. His camels carried bags of gold and jewelry that were distributed as gifts. Mansa Musa gave away so much gold in Cairo that the price of that precious metal dropped.

Mansa Musa returned home from his pilgrimage with a famous Arab architect, who constructed several magnificent buildings. One of them, Djinguereber mosque, still stands in the city of TIMBUKTU. A patron of the arts, Mansa Musa attracted poets and artists to his royal court. He also built several libraries and supported education in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam. (See also Islam in Africa, Kings and KingshipSudanic Empires of Western Africa.)