The richest man in the world right now is Tesla’s Elon Musk who is valued at an estimated $264 billion, however that number does not hold a candle to the great Mansa Musa.
Everybody knows about the country of Mali, but do you know about the Great Mali Empire of the 12th and 13th century? At it’s peak, the Malian Empire was the largest empire in West Africa. It influenced the culture of the region through the spread of its language, laws and customs.
In 1312, the ruler of the empire, Mansa Muhammad ibn Qu decided to lead an expedition to explore the Atlantic Ocean but he never returned. Before he left, he had chosen Kanku Musa as his deputy, to stand in an rule until his return. When he didn’t return, Musa took on the Mansa title and became the new ruler of the Malian Empire.
At the time Mali was one of the richest kingdoms of Africa, stretching across parts of modern-day Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.
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His work in expanding trade in the area made Mali the wealthiest kingdom in Africa. The empire sat on lucrative natural resources, most notably gold. Elephant ivory was also another major source of wealth. According to the British Museum, the Malian empire accounted for almost half of the world’s gold under Mansa Musa.
He was wealthy but at this point, still relatively unknown to the rest of world. However, that would all change in 1324.
Like the other Mansas before him, Musa decided to take a pilgrimage to Mecca. It was this pilgrimage that announced his stupendous wealth to the rest of the world.
Mansa Musa and his entourage of an estimated 60,000 people passed through the Egyptian city of Cairo. According to Arabian historians, this entire procession, including the slaves were dressed in pure gold and the finest silk. They were accompanied by hundreds of camels, each one carrying hundreds of pounds of gold. Throughout his journey, it’s reported that he had a new mosque built every Friday so he could pray.
When they got to Cairo, Musa and his entourage were paying for goods and services with pure gold. He also gave the gold out as gifts to the poor people in the city. His generosity left the streets of Cairo littered with gold and had a huge impact on the Egyptian economy. It greatly depreciated the value of gold in Egypt and took 12 years for the country to recover.
Smart Asset, a U.S based technology company estimates that due to the depreciation of gold, Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage led to about $1.5 billion of economic losses across the Middle East.
Following his trip, news about the golden king of Mali spread across the world like wildfire. Nobody has been able to quantify his actual net worth but he’s generally regarded as the richest man that ever lived. The second richest man ever is Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar with a net worth valued at $4.6 trillion and it is reported that Mansa Musa was worth a lot more than this.
After he died in 1337, his sons took over the empire but they could not hold it together. The smaller cities broke off the empire and the notoriety of Mali as a place of splendor and wealth led to the European powers setting their sights on the empire. The Portugese began with naval attacks in the 15th century.
Till date, Mansa Musa is still seen in the eyes of the world as a symbol of fabulous wealth.