Mansa Musa
Between the fourteenth and sixteenth century, three empires controlled most of western Africa. These empires included the Empire of Ghana, the Songhai Empire, and the Mali Empire. The Mali Empire was formed from the ashes of Ghana. Mansa Musa's grandfather, Sundiata conquered most of Ghana, which formed the Malian Empire.

About seventy years later, Mansa Musa, also known as Kankou Musa, Kankan Musa, Kanku Musa, Mali-koy Kanman Musa, Gonga Musa, and the Lion of Mali, came to power. Although nobody is sure when he came to power, they do know that he became king after the previous king never returned from an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean.

The ruler before Mansa Musa believed that there was an end to the Atlantic Ocean, and he set out to find it. So, he sent out two hundred boats, full with supplies that would last for years. All of these ships except for one were lost at sea, in a great whirlpool. The sultan did not believe this, so he equipped two thousand boats and set out with them. He never returned, and Mansa Musa took power.

Since Sundiata, Mansa Musa's grandfather had converted to Islam, Mansa Musa was born a Muslim. He had a deep devotion towards Islam that cannot be explained in the Qur'anic verses and prayers. Musa believed that Islam was the foundation of the "cultured world of the Eastern Mediterranean".

Because of his belief in Islam, it was key to him that Islam was integrated into his empire. He spent much time on the spread of Islam throughout western Africa. Although he didn't force people into conversion, Mansa Musa was able to convince many people convert. On top of that, he created the perfect environment for Muslim people. He built mosques and schools all throughout his land, and neighboring lands.

Mansa Musa is best known for his hajj (religious pilgrimage) to Mecca, in 1324. His generosity throughout the pilgrimage brought him much attention. He had with him 60,000 men, 12,000 slaves, heralds dressed in rich fabrics with gold staffs, and horses. He had all the necessities for the journey including livestock. Along the journey, 80 camels each held 50-300 pounds of gold dust. Musa gave this gold to anyone he met on his trip no matter who they were. Some say that he even built a mosque each and every Friday while on his pilgrimage.

These acts of generosity, however, destroyed the economies of the region, bringing down the value of gold. Prices on goods were super inflated, because of the newfound wealth. To try and help the economy, Musa borrowed all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo, at high interest. This is the only time, recorded in history, that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean.

Mansa Musa was a key part of the Golden Age of western Africa, spreading Islam and contributing to the wealth and power of his empire. Mansa Musa was a great king that has left his mark in history.

Here are two short clips on Mansa Musa:

Created by Bagatur and Reid
4/20/2011- 4/25/2011