Mansa Musa did things his people expected a very
rich king to do. When he left his palace, 300 guards and his special
musicians who played music wherever they went always accompanied
him. His people would gather along the road and chant: "Hail
Mansa Musa, King of Mali!" There was every evidence that the
people were happy.
The people had every reason to be happy.
They were very bright and creative people. They worked hard. They
played hard. They were not poor. The common people were given some
luxury goods. Goods were given to the elders and distributed as they
saw fit. Mansa Musa was a great believer in spreading wealth around.
Journey to Mecca:
Since things were going so well at home, Mansa
Musa decided now was the time to see the holy city of Mecca. Muslim
law requires that all the faithful visit Mecca at least once. With a
huge number of guards and attendants, along with camels carrying
comforts, luxury, and bagsful of gold nuggets, Mansa Musa set out
across the desert towards Mecca. Along the way, everywhere he went,
he freely gave away gold. You can imagine the excitement he
generated as he traveled from one oasis to the next.
His caravan stopped in Cairo, in Egypt. Word of
his incredible wealth spread quickly though the city. Mansa Musa was
amazed at how expensive things were. They were expensive because
merchants quickly increased their normal prices. Mansa Musa did not care.
Even though he had given away so much gold on the trip to Cairo, he
had bagsful left to spend. And spend he did. Mansa Musa left so much
gold behind him in Cairo that it was rumored it took 12 years for
prices in Egypt to get back to normal. (This is probably an urban
legend, but certainly it took some time for things to get back to
He distributed so much gold on his way to Mecca
that he had to borrow money for his return trip home. Everyone with
money was eager to be of service to such a wealthy man. True to his
nature, Mansa Musa repaid the loans most generously.
His journey took about a year. He traveled
around 3000 miles by camel. No one attempted to take over his
kingdom while he was gone. Mansa Musa was a very smart man. To
reduce the likelihood of a takeover, he had brought with him on his
trip most of the powerful people in his kingdom. He left the army in
charge. They did a great job.
His people were impressed. They thought it
amazing that he was willing to make such a long trip, with so many
dangers, just to see a far away holy place. His trip had other
results. Scholars poured into Timbuktu, making it the most
prestigious university in the land. Trade became even more brisk.
Mansa Musa literally put Mali on the map - on
European maps and Moslem maps!