Mali started as a small province in the kingdom of Ghana. In time, Mali took over.
Sundiata was Mali's young king. He was a great leader and very clever. Rather than simply trade with the people to the north and to the south, Sundiata expanded Mali so that Mali actually controlled some of the gold mines and some of the salt mines.
His son continued to expand Mali, when he took over as king.
But it was Sundiata's grandson, Mansa Musa, who has fascinated people for hundreds of years. Mansa Musa loved knowledge. He built a university in Timbuktu, one of the cities on the Trans-Sahara Trade Route. He established religious freedom. As for himself, he converted to Islam, and traveled extensively.