Mansa Musa: The Richest Person in History
When talks arise about the wealthiest person to ever live on earth, we usually begin to think about the Billionaire CEOs or Arab Princes with immense oil.
However, there was one person who was so rich that scholars of today still have a hard time calculating his total wealth, His name was Mansa Musa (Musa for short).
Mansa Musa, was the tenth Mansa (a military title meaning “conqueror” or “emperor) of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state.
Other names he was referred to as includes “Kankou Musa”, “Kankan Musa”, and “Kanku Musa”, “Mali-Koy Kankan Musa”, “Gonga Musa”, and “the Lion of Mali”.
Musa ruled the Mali Empire in 1312, succeeding the throne after the disappearance of his predecessor Abu-Bakr II, for whom he’d served as deputy,
Abu-Bakr II went missing on a voyage he took by sea to find the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
While Musa came to rule, The Mali Empire was a prosperous city, while European nations at the time were struggling due to raging civil wars and a lack of resources.
The Mali Empire succeeded thanks to ample natural resources like gold and salt, which they traded for more commodities
Musa conquered 24 cities, along with their surrounding districts during his reign.
Mali may have been the largest producer of gold in the world, this abundant commodity granted the ruler (Musa) wealth never seen before in historic times.
Mali Empire Dominated and Ruled Western Africa
This empire Musa ruled was huge, as it consisted of more than 7 African countries we know of today.
Some of the countries that were originally part of the Mali Empire include Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Mauritania, in addition to today Mali.
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A Journey to be remembered & A Showcase of Wealth
While Mali Empire’s prosperous nature was widespread knowledge, it wasn’t until 1324 that the other African regions had a glimpse of the King’s expensive wealth.
A devout Muslim, Musa set off on a journey to Mecca for his Hajj pilgrimage, also known as Makkah.
This journey he embarked on made him well known across Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The voyage, which would span an estimated 4,000 miles, was travelled by Musa and a caravan that included tens of thousands of soldiers, slaves, and heralds, draped in Persian silk and carrying golden staffs.
Musa’s journey was documented by several eyewitnesses along his route, who were in awe of his wealth and extensive procession.
It is said that where ever Musa went to, Gold followed. From the markets of Major cities like Cairo, Mecca, and Medina to the impoverished people that crossed his path in Egypt, Musa’s kindness and acquisition of foreign goods left the streets littered with gold!
At that time, Gold was greatly appreciated and in short supply. The people were thrilled at least at first.
Though well-intentioned, Musa’s gifts of gold were so large it denigrated the value of the metal in Egypt.
This occurrence made the Egyptian economy take a major hit. It took 12 years for the community to recover from this depreciation.
However, Musa fixed his mistake on his way back from Mecca by borrowing all of the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo at high interest.
Musa also conquered cities and build hundreds of mosques around his empire during the time of his reign.
The vastness of Musa’s land and material holdings, University of Michigan associate history Professor Rudolph Ware explained in Time, seems downright incomprehensible today: “Imagine as much gold as you think a human being could possess and double it, that’s what all the accounts are trying to communicate,” he said. “This is the richest guy anyone has ever seen.”
Mansa Musais believed to be the Richest Person in History of mankind
The Arab-Egyptian scholar Al-Umari quotes Mansa Musa as follows:
The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth (meaning Atlantic) and wanted to reach that (end) and obstinately persisted in the design.
So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, like many others full of gold, water, and victuals sufficient enough for several years.
He ordered the chief (admiral) not to return until they had reached the extremity of the ocean, or if they had exhausted the provisions and the water. They set out.
Their absence extended over a long period, and, at last, only one boat returned. On our questioning, the captain said: ‘Prince, we have navigated for a long time, until we saw amid the ocean as if a big river was flowing violently.
My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me. As soon as any of them reached this place, it drowned in the whirlpool and never came out.
I sailed backward to escape this current.’ But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and his men, and one thousand more for water and victuals.
Then he conferred on me the regency during his absence and departed with his men on the ocean trip, never to return nor to give a sign of life.
Musa’s son and successor, Mansa Magha Keita, was also appointed deputy during Musa’s pilgrimage.
Can you guess how rich Mensa Musa was using today’s currency?
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