Mansa Keita I was the 14th Mansa (emperor or king) of Mali Empire. He is said to have lived from 1280- 1337 AD, he became the emperor in 1312 after his predecessor Abu Bakr II passed away. He is the most famous medieval African ruler of his time and is said to have conquered 24 cities as well as their surrounding towns and villages. He was given many titles such as Emir of Melle, Conqueror of Ghana, and many others.
The Mali empire of that time was very large, it spread through most of West Africa. Modern day Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Chad and even some parts of Nigeria were all a part of the empire. Mans Musa’s reign was very peaceful and prosperous. This made him the richest man in the world at that time and possibly the richest man to ever live. He reigned for 25 years and was succeeded by his son, Maghan I.
He was a devout Muslim and the first West African ruler to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The journey was over 4 thousand miles and it took him months to prepare for it. He took about 1000 people with him on his journey as well as artworks and a lot of gold. He gave away a lot of gold to the poor and the rulers of the cities he passed through on his journey to Mecca. He was known to be a very generous man, he even made sure his servants were richly dressed. He gave away so much gold in Cairo, it caused an economic inflation. It took over a decade for gold to return to it’s original value. His pilgrimage attracted the attention of many European leaders.
A number of Arabian architects and artists followed him back to Mali from Mecca. Ishaq El Teudjin was a famous architect who designed a lot of advanced buildings for the emperor as well as a new palace named Madagou. He also designed the great mosque at Timbuktu called Djinguereber, this mosque is still standing today. El Teudjin’s most famous design was the Emperor’s chamber in Niani.
Mansa musa built many libraries and universities. This attracted many scholars, poets and artisans from many parts of the world to Mali. Timbuktu became one of the leading cities in the Islamic world, at that time most advanced nations (e.g Spain and India) were Islamic nations. Many maps were made by Europeans from 1337 showing the great Mali empire and Mansa Musa.
Mansa Musa’s net worth today is estimated to be about $400 billion.