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Mansa Musa’s Pilgrimage to Mecca

More than sixty years after the reign of Sundiata Keita, one of his descendants rose to become the King of Mali. His name was Mansa Musa, and he was a devout Muslim. Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca happened between 1324 and 1325. He brought a large entourage with him which impressed people everywhere they went. He spent a lot of gold in the cities they passed through on the way to Mecca. Because of his kingdom’s abundance of gold, Mansa Musa was known as one of the richest men who ever lived on earth.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History during that time.

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An African Adventure

Mansa Musa was born in 1280 in Niani, Mali. He was the grandnephew of the first king of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita. He was also the grandson and successor of Abu Bakr II who, out of curiosity, decided to explore the Atlantic Ocean. He ordered his people to build a fleet of ships and left the kingdom to the care of his cousin Musa. After bringing their provisions on board, King Abu Bakr II and his men sailed off west. They never returned, and Musa was proclaimed as the new Mansa (king) of the Mali empire in 1312.

Mansa Musa and the Journey to Mecca

Mansa Musa, ruler of the Mali empire in the 14th century.

When he became the 10th king of the Mali Empire, the kingdoms of Gao and Mani were under Mansa Musa’s rule. His reign was said to be the height of the Mali Empire. The Empire was rich because of the abundance of gold in the territory. Mali had a rule that all the gold mined in the empire should always be given to the king, and this was how Mansa Musa became as wealthy as he did.

He also wanted to travel, but his plan was to head east to Mecca instead of the Atlantic Ocean. After several years of planning, the king’s journey to Arabia finally started in 1324. His wife Inari Kanute, officials, soldiers, camel drivers, merchants, and slaves all joined him in the journey. From their homeland in Mali, Mansa Musa’s caravan traveled north and crossed the Sahara Desert into Egypt. The king’s caravan made a stopover in Cairo where Mansa Musa met the city’s governor.

Mansa Musa’s entourage impressed the governor of Cairo, but what really amazed him was the amount of gold the king and his people brought with them. Mansa Musa showered the Egyptian court in Cairo with gold, and the city would remember his generosity for many years. Unfortunately, the shopkeepers of the city tricked and overcharged Mansa Musa’s people whenever they shopped in their markets. The amount of gold he gave away to the people of Cairo was so large that its value went down for many years.

They continued the journey to Mecca after three months in Cairo. The journey to Arabia was full of danger and multiple mishaps.  Those who were not killed by thirst or hunger in the desert died when they were attacked by bandits. They finally arrived in Mecca after many months. The group remained there for a while until Musa decided that it was time to return home. He and his companions retraced their steps in the coast of Arabia, and finally went back to Egypt. But this time, the great king had no money nor gold to give away as his treasures had run out. Sadly, he had to borrow money from Cairo’s moneylenders so that he and his people could go home.

Legacy of Mansa Musa’s Pilgrimage

Mansa Musa’s journey and his lavish spending in Cairo introduced his West African kingdom to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. When merchants heard of his wealth, they organized caravans and traveled to make their fortunes in the Mali Empire. Egyptian and Moroccan merchants, in particular, traded more frequently in the empire. North African rulers also sent envoys to the Mali Kingdom after they heard of Mansa Musa’s incredible wealth.

References:

By Abraham Cresques of Mallorca – Catalan Atlas of the known world (mapamundi), drawn by Abraham Cresques of Mallorca. Online: www.henry-davis.com, Public Domain, Link

Conrad, David C. Empires of Medieval West Africa: Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. New York: Facts On File, 2005.

Levtzion, Nehemia. The Cambridge History of Africa, Vol 3 from c. 1050 to c. 1600. Edited by Roland Oliver and J.D. Fage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Magill, Frank N., ed. The Middle Ages: Dictionary of World Biography. Vol. 2. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998.

Tesfu, Julianna. “Musa, Mansa (1280-1337) .” The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. Accessed January 11, 2017. http://www.blackpast.org/gah/musa-mansa-1280-1337.

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12 thoughts on “Mansa Musa’s Pilgrimage to Mecca

  1. I am not convinced of the last part that he became broke and borrowed money from money lenders. i think its a lie

    1. no its not

    2. I don’t think the last part is accurate either. He was known as one of the richest men that have ever lived. I don’t think he had to borrow money, I think that’s a lie.

      1. Mansa Musa devalued his gold and lost almost all of it. He lended it out to people as payment. It took him ten years to recover.

        1. it took cairo ten years to recover

          1. it took cairo twelve years actually

      2. On part I didn’t is that it states that he went broke on his way back to his home. If I’m not mistaken

  2. nope that fact is true

  3. I’ve read other articles on Mansa Musa and saw nothing of him becoming suddenly destitute. I don’t believe that he lost all of his riches either.

  4. mansa Musa almost bankrupts the Egyptian sultan so he borrowed money to reinflate their economy. money had no meaning as Musa had penalty he was observing the 5 pillars of Islam

  5. Mansa Musa borrowed gold from lenders in cairo, to rectify the problem of excess gold, which he caused.

  6. Mansa Musa never went broke and because of his spending in Egypt he left the Egyptian economy’s value of so undervalued that it took them 12 years to recover.

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