Mansa Musa, the richest man that ever lived

Featured Image Source: attributed to Abraham Cresques, Under Public Domain

Mansa Musa or Musa Keita I is believed to have been the richest man who ever lived amassing huge amounts of wealth for himself and the Mali Empire at large. He became so notorious for his wealth that the stories of his pilgrimage made it all the way to central Europe. He expanded the empire adding large cities like Timbuktu and Gao. He helped to increase the wealth of Timbuktu and helped to make it a centre of Islamic culture and knowledge.

Mansa Musa’s most impressive feat was his pilgrimage to Mecca being a devout Muslim. His pilgrimage took more than a year and built many mosques along the way. He also spent so much in Alexandria that he destabilised the currency which took 10 years to fully recover. Mansa Musa is also responsible for some of the most recognisable and prettiest Architecture in North Africa and the Middle East. Like the largest mosque in Timbuktu, the Djinguereber Mosque or the University of Sankore. He brought back architecture from Spain and Egypt on the way back from his pilgrimage.

Dijnguereber Mosque

Source: JM, Under Creative Commons,

University of Sankore

Source: Baz Lecocq, Under Creative Commons,

These and other impressive buildings dot the landscape that Mansa Musa ruled. He helped to cement Timbuktu’s place as a centre for knowledge and the idea in Europeans minds West Africa was unbelievably rich. There is also some evidence to suggest that under his rule Mali may have traded across the Atlantic ocean with the new world, although there is no definitive evidence.

Mansa Musa through his buildings had a huge effect on architecture in the area. By bringing architects for Europe and the Islamic world, most notably al-Sahili, he helped to create new typologies and modernise architecture in his Empire. Flat roofs, burnt bricks and pyramid shaped minaret were all ideas introduced by architects Mansa brought to Mali.  He also helped to better the urban planning of many cities in Mali, most notably Goa with its grid city plan and large market squares.


Source: VN-missie MINUSMA, Under Citation,


Ed TEDYoutube, Wikipedia, [Book]The Lion of Mali The Hajj of Mansa Musa, by David W. Tschanz, Lost Islamic HistoryVenerabilisopusDefensie Weblog

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