King Mansa Kankan Musa: We Remember Your Empire

Mansa Kankan Musa

Emperor/King of the Great Empire of Mali

Born: 1280

Died: 1337

The Golden Lion of Mali

Kankan Musa was the Mansa (emperor or king of kings) of the Great Empire of Mali. The Empire of Mali was the largest empire of West Africa, consisting of what are now the nations of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal.

Mansa Musa was renowned for his great wealth and generosity. He is regarded as one of the richest figures in history, with his wealth estimated at 400 billion US dollars.

Decades of peace and prosperity marked the rule of Mansa Musa. The Mali Empire reached a staggering number of more than four hundred cities – all loyal to their beloved emperor. His rule was marked by significant leaps in education, commerce, and artistry.

Mansa Musa was the first Muslim ruler to have ever made the pilgrimage to Mecca –a journey that spanned four thousand miles, and took almost two years from the start of his journey to his return to Mali.

His pilgrimage in 1334 was recorded to have included close to eighty thousand people and a vast amount of gold. Mansa Musa was very generous, giving gold as donations to the poor or as payments for trinkets that he fancied along the way. Rulers of the lands situated on the path of his pilgrimage also received great amounts of gold as gifts – further proving his reputation of having enormous wealth and generosity.

Arriving in Egypt, Mansa Musa gave away so much gold, the sudden influx of gold sent Egypt into economic turmoil. Unknown to the emperor, his generosity caused the devaluation of the coin, which lasted twelve years.

News of Emperor of Mali’s wealth attracted a great number of scholars, merchants, architects, and a multitude of people of varying cultures from Asia, Europe, and other kingdoms of Africa.

Malian cities prospered and became centers knowledge and education. A great monumental palace was constructed in the capital city of Niani designed by the architect Ishaq El Teudjin. Universites were built in Djenne, Segou, and Niani.

Architects from Spain, and Cairo built a grand palace in Timbuktu. The great Djinguereber Mosque was built by the architect Abu Es Haq es Saheli, who was paid 200 kg of gold. The Sankore Madrasah (University of Sankore) received great improvements in structure as well as instructors and staff.

The University of Sankore became a notable center of learning and culture. The university housed around 25,000 students and had the largest collection of books in Africa. The quality of instruction at Sankore was said to be superior to many other Islamic centers, drawing Muslim scholars from around Africa and the Middle East to Timbuktu.

Mansa Musa’s actions and achievements brought attention to Africa – proving that Africa could stand shoulder to shoulder with the world. His name spread across Europe and Asia, giving people a glimpse of African wealth and culture. This lead to increased commerce, a boom in the fields of arts and architecture, and a higher quality of education for the people of Mali.


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