Mansa Musa

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Mansa Kankan Musa ruled the west African empire of Mali from 1312 to 1337 A.D. He greatly expanded the empire, bringing much of the south western Sahara under control, and facilitating a blossoming of trade throughout the region. Ibn Battuta was to comment that he found “complete and general safety in the land”.

He was a devoted Muslim and a benefactor of Islamic studies; bringing scholars and other learned men into his cities, and setting up Islamic courts of law alongside the traditional - however, as the majority of his subjects were non-believers, he allowed the worship of his subjects’ gods, even at his own court. Under his rule Mali embassies were set up in North African capitals and Mali became respected by the powerful states along the Mediterranean. His capital, Niani, has disappeared, but as late as the 16th century its inhabitants were described by a Moroccan traveller as “the most civilised, intelligent and respected” in the region.

Mansa (which means "Emperor") Musa is famous for his extravagant Hajj; when Musa passed through Cairo, he was reportedly accompanied by thousands of people and a hundred camels, and gave out so much gold that the North African economy took over a decade to recover from the ensuing inflation.

Reference: “West Africa before the Colonial Era” – Basil Davidson. Pub. Longman 1998, pages 42,43.

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