Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

According to today's parameters, it is challenging to calculate Mansa Musa's wealth, but experts have tried. They concluded that today his fortune, adjusted to the inflation rate, would come to 400 billion dollars.

Forbes lists Jeff Bezos' fortune to be 177 billion dollars. Bezos is the richest man in the world's modern history, but even with so much wealth, he is not the richest man of all time.

Neither is Elon Musk, the founder and owner of Tesla, worth 150 billion, nor are Bernard Arnault, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg. The richest man of all time was Mansa Musa.

Mansa Musa: The King Of Kings

Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

Mansa Musa, as his name is remembered in the western world, was known as the "king of kings." He was the emperor of today's Mali, ruling between 1312 and 1337. From what is known, he was the wealthiest person of all time.

His kingdom was rumored to be "so great that no one could see its end" during his reign. It included present-day Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Nigeria.

In all these countries that belonged to him, he built numerous mosques, many of which still stand today. According to records from the time, "a dark young man with a pleasant face and a handsome figure."

According to today's parameters, it isn't easy to calculate Mansa Musa's wealth, but some experts have tried. They concluded that today his fortune, adjusted to the inflation rate, would amount to 400 billion dollars.

The most famous story about him was, without a doubt, about his Hajj in 1324 when he was 44 years old. He traveled about 6,500 kilometers and 8,000 courtiers, 12,000 slaves, and 100 camels.

Golden Cairo

Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

Although a devout Muslim, Mansa Musa was also a skilled businessman, and the pilgrimage helped him establish relationships with business partners. He was also said to have been very generous. As he passed through Cairo, he gave so much money to the poor that it caused mass inflation.

Musa's generosity and the purchase of all kinds of goods on the streets of Cairo were filled with gold, a resource that was still highly valued and in short supply. People were thrilled, at least at first.

Although shared with good intentions, Mansa Musa's golden gifts created a problem in Cairo. They depreciated the value of that metal in Egypt, and the economy suffered a big blow. It took 12 years for the community to recover.

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, a specialist in African art, told the BBC:

"Mansa Musa had almost unlimited access to the most prized source of wealth in the medieval world."

She added:

"The main trading centers that traded in gold and other goods were also in his territory and he gained enormous wealth from that trade"

A Journey Through The Dessert

Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

Although the Mali Empire was rich in gold, few outside Africa knew about it. That changed when Mansa Musa decided to go on Hajj through the Sahara Desert and Egypt. He took his entire royal court and officials, soldiers, griots (entertainers), merchants, camel riders, and thousands of slaves. Many sheep and goats followed so that the pilgrims could have something to eat.

An entire city was moving through the desert. A city whose inhabitants, and even slaves, were dressed in gold brocade and the finest Persian silk. Hundreds of camels were in the caravan, and each camel carried hundreds of kilograms of pure gold. It was an unusual sight.

The American technology company SmartAsset estimates that, due to the depreciation of gold, Hajj Musa and his subjects led to about 1.5 billion dollars in economic losses in the Middle East.

On his return home, Mansa Musa passed through Egypt again. According to some, he tried to help the country's economy by removing some of the gold from circulation. Others say he spent so much that he returned home without gold.

It is unclear whether this is an exaggeration or a reality. Yet, the word about his adventures has reached the ears of Europeans. They decided to check out the man who has ruled much of Africa for a quarter of a century.

After that, the kingdom of Mali and its king were drawn on the most important map of the time: the Catalan Atlas or Mapamundi de Los Cresques. It covered the world known to Europeans in the XIV century.

In the Catalan Atlas of 1375, the most critical device for European sailors, drawn by the Spanish cartographer Abraham Cresques, Mansa Musa, is pictured on a throne with a golden scepter and a crown, holding a golden nugget.

Welcome To The Modern Age

Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

Mansa Musa turned Timbuktu into a commercial, cultural, Islamic center. He brought architects from Cairo and Andalusia to build him a grand palace. It, unfortunately, no longer exists, though a large mosque Djingareyber still stands.

He founded numerous schools in the city. Soon, news of his wealth spread to other parts of the world: merchants from Venice, Granada, or Genoa added Timbuktu to their charts to trade their gold goods. Timbuktu was a magnificent city where dozens of universities were built, and knowledge-seeking people from all over Africa came to study.

Musa became the ruler of the kingdom of Mali in 1312, taking the throne after his predecessor on the throne, his brother Abu-Bakr II, disappeared. Abu set out by sea to find the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and never returned.

According to XIV century Syrian historian Shibab al-Umari, Abu Bakr was obsessed with the Atlantic Ocean. He reportedly embarked on an expedition with a fleet of hundreds of ships and thousands of men, women, and slaves. They set sails and never returned.

Some historians have argued that they reached South America, but there is no evidence.

Conquering Gao

Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

Mansa Musa came to power when European nations were fighting bloody civil wars. Due to that, there was a shortage when Mali was flourishing thanks to natural resources in gold and salt. Historians claim that Mali held half of all the world's gold reserves during Musa's reign.

Under Mansa Musa's rule, Mali spread over vast parts of Africa, from the Atlantic coast to Timbuktu and parts of the Sahara desert. As the territory grew while Musa was on the throne, so did the economic power of its citizens.

His journeys were not recorded just because of the generous donation, as he expanded his territories. On his journey, he gained territory called Gao within the Songhai Kingdom, expanding his empire to the southern edge of the Sahara Desert along the Niger River.

Gao was of particular importance. He built several mosques in these territories, part of today's Mali. He invested the most in Timbuktu, the most important city of the wealthy king, who used his wealth to build schools, libraries, and mosques. Musa built the Djingareyber Mosque on a famous site. It was constructed of clay brick and wood and lasted more than 500 years.

The Return Of The Pilgrim

Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

After returning from Mecca, Mansa Musa began investing in developing numerous cities in his kingdom. He built mosques and large public buildings. Under his rule, Timbuktu became a major Islamic university center during the XIV century.

Mansa Musa brought architects and scholars from all over the Islamic world to his kingdom, and the reputation of the empire of Mali grew. It was a hectic, prosperous kingdom in the reign of Mansa Musa.

Mansa Musa died in 1337 and was succeeded by his sons. Although one of the most powerful in the history of humanity, Musa's empire eventually fell apart.

Nevertheless, it remained inscribed in history and people's imagination to symbolize incredible wealth. However, his wealth is only part of his legacy. Musa is remembered for his Muslim faith, scholarships, and patronage of Mali culture.

The Mali Empire

Mansa Musa - The Richest Man In History Lived In The 14th Century, And Today's Billionaires Can't Even Come Close To His Fortune

The Mali Empire dates back to the 1200s when ruler Sundiata Keita started a revolution against King Sosso and united his subjects into a new state.

During the time of Keita and his successors, the empire stretched through West Africa and was enriched by trade. The most important cities were Djenné and Timbuktu, famous for their brick buildings and Islamic schools. One such institution, the Sankore University of Timbuktu, had a library that housed 700,000 manuscripts.

The Mali Empire eventually disintegrated in the XVI century. Yet, at its peak, it was one of the jewels of the African continent and known worldwide for its wealth and luxury.

From Mali came the Mandinka people (also known as Mandingo and Malinke), spreading to parts of Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

With a population of about 11 million, the Mandinka are the most famous ethnic group of the Manda people. They are descendants of the great Malian Empire, which flourished in West Africa from the XII to the XVI century. When the Mali Empire disintegrated in the XVI century, tens of thousands of Mandinkas were sent to America as slaves.

Of the approximately 400,000 Africans who landed in America due to the slave trade, historians believe 92,000 were from the West African region. It includes the Senegal and Gambia rivers and the land between them, and many were members of the Mandinka.

Writer Alex Haley celebrated Mandinke when he wrote His Roots. This remarkable novel goes back to the past, from present-day America to the village of Juffure in The Gambia. There, his great-great-great-grandfather Kunta Kinte was captured and sold into slavery in the US.

Some Mandinki converted to Islam from their traditional animistic beliefs as early as the XII century. After a series of wars in the late XIX century, more than 95 percent of Mandinki today are Muslims. Most of them live in family communities, primarily autonomous and run by local chieftains. Mandinka men are poor farmers, and peanuts are the main crop.

Their traditional customs include circumcision of boys and girls, arranged marriages, and polygamy, as Mandinka men can have up to four wives. Mandinka has a strong oral tradition, "griot." It means that narrators keep alive the history of the village and the family, often accompanied by a traditional instrument similar to the harp.

One of the central figures in these stories is, in fact, Mansa Musa.