Mansa Musa, the Muslim King of Mali Illustration

Mansa Musa
The Muslim King
of Mali

Mansa Musa and his adventures put the kingdom of Mali on the map.

When he took over as king, the empire of Mali had grown so big that Mansa Musa knew he could not hear all the concerns of all his people. One of the first things he did was to divide the empire into provinces. He put a governor in charge of each province. Each village had a mayor. Business that affected the empire was done by Mansa Musa and his advisors. The day to day problems were handled locally. Mansa Musa did not turn his back on his people. He made sure the local governments were operating fairly and effectively.

Mali was rich when Mansa Musa came to power. The army guarded the gold mines. They guarded sections of the trade routes. There were usually about 90,000 men on duty at any one time. Wealth in the form of gold poured into Mali. Traders always stopped at Mali. They knew they would be welcomed, fed, housed, and safe. Mansa Musa was generous. Trade with Mali was always good for the traders who had come so far.

Mansa Musa established religious freedom. Education was free and encouraged. He even established a university. People came from all over the world to study at this famous university. When Muslim scholars visited Mali, they were surprised at the people's clothes. They didn't look like Muslims. The women were unveiled. The clothes were colorful. But Mansa Musa was a great host and a devout Muslim. The scholars were understanding. They found their host delightful, if a bit unusual.

Mansa Musa knew his people needed him to act like a king. Every time he left his palace, he took about 300 guards and musicians and acrobats with him. It was quite a sight. The people loved it. They gathered as people would to watch a parade, which is exactly what it was. They would cry out, "Mansa Musa!"

As Mansa Musa wandered about, accompanied by his many guards and performers, he gave out presents. Some people were handed luxury goods. Others were given a small nugget of gold. The elders of every town received special gifts. No wonder the people loved him. He had so much wealth. He believed it should be shared.

Mansa Musa wanted to travel and see the holy city of Mecca. He felt safe leaving his empire and his people in the hands of his advisors and local officials. He was right. They did a great job during the year he was gone.

On his way to the city of Mecca, Mansa Musa did what he always did - he took people and camels with him, along with a great deal of gold. On the way, he shared his wealth with the people he met. By the time he reached Cairo, in Egypt, word of his wealth had spread. People were packed along the streets waiting for his arrival.

By the time he was ready to return home, he had given out so much gold that he needed to borrow some to get home. But many nobles were eager to loan the king whatever he needed. They had no doubt they would be repaid. And they were. He gave paid back everyone who had loaned him gold to get home, more gold than he had been given.

Mansa Musa put Mali on the map. After his trip to Mecca, there was almost no one in the African world who did not know the great king, Mansa Musa.

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