Mansa Musa

What do you do when you have way too much wealth than you can ever spend? Augustus Caesar, Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, and King Solomon in history all achieved immense wealth, but none came close to Mansa Musa. He made so much wealth in his lifetime that Malians and the Portuguese took more than five decades to squander all of it. Unfortunately, He never went down as a famous man because of the colonization that followed Africa after his demise. Here are the ten wonders of his life from 1280 to 1337.

His Net Worth Was Over $400 Billion

Today, the war between the wealthiest people in the world is between the wealthiest CEOs and a few Royal families around the world, but none has hit $200 billion yet, well, apart from Rockafellar but even he was not close to Musa. Mansa Musa’s Wealth adjusted at the annual rate of inflation of 2199.6 was over 400 billion. The estimates were made based only on his wealth reported in terms of gold which means he could well have been richer than that. He was a smart entrepreneur that exploited the high demand for gold and salt in the Mediterranean in the 14th century. He maximized production in all of West Africa’s gold mines converting a vast empire from the Mediterranean coast all the way inland to the Kalahari into the city of gold. Many scholars agree that no number can be used to quantify his wealth but let’s settle on the 400b for now.[1]

His Rise to Power Was Accidental

The Ancient kingdom od Mali started way back in 1240 under the guidance of Sundiata Keita, who became the first king or Mansa of Mali. Through the years of trade with the Arab world, Islam became the religion of the empire while trade with the south allowed them to cement their influence inland. Mansa was born in the royal family to one of the great descendants of Sundiata, but he had no claim to the throne because his father was only an advisor to the Mansa Abu-Bakr II a position he later inherited. In 1312, Abu-Bakr led a voyage in the Atlantic leaving Musa in charge, and somehow, he never came back, so Musa automatically became Mansa. This was, however, a good coincidence for both Mali and Musa because he turned out to be the most exceptional leader in the history of West Africa.[2]

He Became the First King of Kings in Africa

There was so much noise all over the world when Muammar Gaddafi declared himself the father of a united Africa and the King of Kings in Africa, but Mansa Musa achieved this title. In 1312 when Musa became the king, Mali was already prosperous but still had fights with the neighboring kingdoms in Ghana, Songhai and the kingdom of Chad. After taking over, Mansa Musa began his conquests taking over 24 major cities that covered modern day Mauritania, Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, and Chad. He had an elaborate aristocratic rule that saw all the kingdoms to central Africa famously known as the Songhai kingdom pay tribute to him. He, in turn, offered protection to the greatest territory of any kingdom in African history. His name Mansa Musa is now actually meant the conqueror or the King of Kings.[3]

He Turned Mali Into One of the Greatest Kingdoms in the World

Today, the most famous empires in history rarely mention Mali, but considering the empire that was delivering the salt and gold of the entire Mediterranean, this empire was nothing small. Under Musa, Mali extended as far south as Angola. The peak of its technological advancement came in the 1320s after Musa returned from Mecca with the best architects and teachers to build the Timbuktu university and other learning centers as well as some of the largest mosques in the world at the time. The economy flourished seeing thousands of ships from the Atlantic and caravans inland to the East and the south. His diplomatic prowess created an empire that attracted thousands of visitors including Portuguese explorers who confessed that they saw an empire that could rival Rome itself.[4]

He Controlled Half of the Gold & Salt Supply in the World

This is the greatest wonder of Mansa Musa that still surprises people today. The first picture of the gold owned by Mansa Musa was seen on his legendary Pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. While controlling all the Gold of West Africa to Ivory coast, Mansa was the king of the most gold-rich lands in the world at the time. You can’t blame him because the gold of every city he conquered automatically belonged to him. Gold mining was not so advanced in South Africa. Europe and Asia also didn’t have enough deposits meaning Mali was the world Gold Center. The British Museum reports that his gold was more than half of the world’s total gold at the time. He was also too generous which caused the value gold in his kingdom to fall terribly.[5]

He Was the First African King to Visit Mecca

Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim and had to visit Mecca at least once in his life, and his 1324 caravan across the Sahara Desert exposed his flourishing kingdom to the rest of the world. Mansa was Lavish, and he was not ready to travel light, he created the greatest caravan ever seen in the Mediterranean. He took a caravan of 60,000 people including translators, advisors, soldiers, and entertainers including 12000 slaves to carry gold. He also received more than 100 camels each carrying as much gold as it could as well as a whole stream of sheep and goats for food in the desert. His caravan was so spectacular that every city from Timbuktu through Cairo to Mecca spoke of it several decades after his death. The map of his journey through the desert emerged in 1375, three decades after his death.[6]

His Generosity Destroyed the Economies of Mecca, Cairo & Medina

Gold is precious but only when it is scarce, but Mansa Musa just wouldn’t let this happen. One of the most famous events in the history of Egypt is the 14th-century gold crash, and it was caused by Mansa Musa’s Caravan solely. Mansa gave peasants and beggars lots of gold in exchange for some valueless things like jewelry and pottery wherever he went. His camels had so much gold dust which he poured through the cities resulting in a total economic collapse. When he arrived in Cairo, he stayed for three months causing a fall in the price of gold that took over ten years to correct. His extreme generosity attracted the attention of the pharaoh who later met him to establish the trade link between Mali and Egypt.[7]

He Built a New Mosque Every Friday

Mansa Musa’s devotion to Islam was not just revealed on his pilgrimage alone, He had started constructing a new Masjid in Mali every Friday, but most of them were destroyed over the years although some of the ones he builds on his pilgrimage survived. A man that toppled the economy of a vast empire like Egypt definitely had no problem constructing a mosque, but the way he did it always stood out. He was probably the most devout Muslim in West Africa at the time considering his respect for the time of prayer and insistence on completing the Haj. The greatest spectacle of his pilgrimage, however, was that he insisted on making prayers in a mosque and thus a mosque had to be constructed every Friday for him. This left a trail of mosques throughout the Sahara almost in every city he made a stop. Even today many mosques are still referred to as King Musa’s mosques because some modern mosques were still built on these sites.[8]

He Single-Handedly Regulated the Price of Gold in the Mediterranean

Mansa Musa crippled the economies on his way to Mecca but on his return Journey, he tried to correct his mistake but only made it worse. He had given out more than 20,000 pounds of Gold in each City including Medina, Cairo and Mecca and the price of goods just shot up. On his return journey, he was also broke having given out almost all the gold he had, and he was willing to repurchase it. Most of the money lenders put a steep interest on the gold because they understood that Mansa Musa could Match it. As a result, everyone lined up to sell their gold to Mansa Musa, and he independently controlled the price of Gold through the three cities becoming the first and only man in history to do such a thing. His efforts didn’t change anything though because he had given out lots of gold nuggets and dust to peasants and it could not be recovered. Everyone had Gold.[9][10]

He Constructed Africa’s First University

This was the greatest accomplishment of Mansa Musa. He converted Timbuktu into a cultural hub attracting religious leaders and scholars from all over the world. He then decided to advance the education, religion, and infrastructure of his country to international standards using architects, engineers, and teachers he picked on his pilgrimage to Mecca. His city was not exposed to the rest of the world, and even Muslim women did not put on veils. His pilgrimage exposed him to the universities in the Arab world prompting him to return with lots of books and teachers which made the first members of the great university of Timbuktu. The library had thousands of books, and the university could accommodate tens of thousands of students. The University and his great mosque of Timbuktu are the most famous relics of Mansa Musa today.[11]

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