Mansa Musa was born into a family of kings around the year 1280. Mansa Abu-Bakr, his brother, controlled the empire until 1312 when he abdicated in order to embark on an expedition.
Abu-Bakr, according to Shibab al-Umari, a 14th-century Syrian historian, was preoccupied with the Atlantic Ocean and what lay beyond it. He is said to have set out with a fleet of 2,000 ships and tens of thousands of men, women, and slaves. They sailed away, never to be seen again.
Some, like the late American historian Ivan Van Sertima, believe they made it to South America. However, there is no proof of this. Mansa Musa, on the other hand, inherited the kingdom he left behind.
Mali’s kingdom increased substantially under his reign. Timbuktu was one of the 24 cities he annexed. From the Atlantic Ocean to modern-day Niger, the kingdom spanned roughly 2,000 miles, encompassing portions of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast.
Mansa Musa also contributed to the propagation of Islam. He was a devout Muslim who constructed several schools based on the teachings of the Qur’an. There is also a legend that every Friday when he paused on his Hajj, he ordered the construction of a Mosque, as Friday is a Muslim holy day. He was well-known for sending students to Islamic colleges in northern Africa. 1344
European cartographers began to depict Mansa Musa on maps after his Hajj. As Mali’s kingdom crumbled, so did Mansa Musa’s reputation; he was no longer shown as a noble monarch on maps, but rather as a more uncivilized figure. He was shown as a naked barbarian wearing a crown, a spoof of European nobility.
Mansa Musa Quick Facts:
1. He came to the throne through a practice of appointing a deputy when a king goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca or some other endeavour.
2. Musa was appointed deputy of Abubakari Keita II, the king before him, who had reportedly embarked on an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean, and never returned.
3. He was the tenth Mansa (emperor) of Mali
4. During his reign, Mansa Musa conquered 24 cities and Mali may have been the largest producer of gold in the world.
5. The extent of his wealth is regarded as inconceivable.
6. History recorded him as the only one man who directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean.
7. His admiral monuments in Mali was recorded as the foundation of urban civilization.
8. Musa’s generous actions inadvertently devastated the economies of the regions through which he passed during his pilgrimages as he not only give gold to the poor he met along his route as well as cities, he also traded gold pieces for souvenirs.
9. As a devout Muslim, he brought architects from Spain and Cairo to build his grand palace in Timbuktu and the great Djinguereber Mosque that still stands today, making Timbuktu a center of trade, culture, and Islam.
10. During his reign, Mansa Musa I restaffed the University of Sankore in Timbuktu with jurists, astronomers, and mathematicians, making it a centre of learning and culture and attracting Muslim scholars from around Africa and the Middle East to Timbuktu.
11. While Musa’s palace has since vanished, the university and mosque still stand in Timbuktu today as part of his legacy.