Who was the Richest Man in the History of the World? - Mansa Musa

The wealthiest man in the history of the world was Mansa Musa(1280-1337), the emperor of Mali in Africa. He was 10th Mansa which means conqueror or sultan. During his reign, Mali was the largest gold producer in the world. Besides giving it the attribute of astonishing, there is no way to measure the precise amount of Musa’s wealth. If, however, we would be forced to put it in numbers, it is very likely that converted in today’s dollars, the value of his possessions would exceed 300 billion.

River in the Ocean – How Musa Came To Throne

Musa did not take the throne by inheritance. In Mali, there was a practice for an Emperor to appoint a deputy when his endeavors required a lot of time and traveling disallowing him to rule properly. At the time, current emperor Abubakari Ketia was obsessed with initiating a venture towards the west and finding the limits of an Atlantic Ocean. This ambitious expedition consisted of 200 boats, lots of men, gold, water, and food… Abubakari ordered the admiral not to stop until the extremity of the ocean is reached or drinking water is gone. After sailing out their absence extended over a long period of time. Eventually, one of the ships came back. Abubakari had asked the captain what happened and received the explanation he discarded as false. By the claims of the survivors, while sailing on open waters an unrealistic occurrence crossed their path. On the sailing line, the water stream had appeared and flowed as it was some violent river curved in the ocean. All ships that got near it were drowned in a whirlpool, and not a single piece of all those boats came back to the surface. Since his ship sailed back, he managed to turn around and evade the current. Not believing in the survivor’s words, emperor Abubakiri decided to initiate another campaign which, he himself was going to accompany. He ordered 3000 boats to be prepared. 2000 were for him and his men, while 1000 was reserved for supplies. Before leaving the ground, Emperor appointed Mansa Musa to be his deputy. After no ship had returned, Musa became an emperor.

River under the ocean

Underwater river

What Sunk Ships?

While there are legends of destiny and African shamans getting involved to destroy the expedition and, trough the use of black magic, allow Musa to become the emperor, it is most likely that Atlantic currents were responsible for what happened. Canaries currents and Gulf streams could both be the cause of water’s strange behavior. Before 7 centuries there weren’t ways for more firm scientific explorations and storing data which is why these kinds of accidents were possible in the first place.

How Rich Was Mansa Musa?

When he became an emperor, Mali was already very rich. However, he increased its wealth with business and conquering. During Musa’s reign, 24 cities were sized together with surrounding villages and estates. On the peak of its power, the Mali empire stretched over 2000 miles long. His rule encompassed modern-day Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad. We have already mentioned the digit of 300 billion as a rough estimate of his wealth. But that is not enough to prove a point. Maybe one of the best indicators of how rich Mansa Musa was is to look at some facts about his 4000 miles long pilgrimage.

Musa’s Journey to Mecca

Gold dust

Gold Dust

As a devout Muslim, Musa considered the pilgrimage to Mecca as a crucial part of his life. In 1324, appointing his son for deputy, accompanied by the procession of 60 000 men dressed in the finest silk clothing available at that time, Musa set off to Saudi Arabia. In addition to them, 15 000 slaves followed and each one of them carried 2 kg of gold bars. Yet that wasn’t all of the gold as 80 camels carried more. Every single one of them had a 100 kg sucks on its back. Sacks were filled with gold dust. Along the way which encompassed most of the North African countries, Musa gave gold to the poor they would encounter. Although at first glance, this might seem generous and suitable for the man of his wealth, his generosity destroyed some economies.

Generosity Destroys Economy

Musa might be the only example in human history who destroyed someone else’s economy by being generous and having purely noble intentions. In Cairo, Medina and Mecca Musa’s lavishness towards the poor reached its peak. He was doling gold in kilograms. This created a problem as sudden influxes of large amounts of gold resulted in metal prices lowering down for the next decade. Not wanting to leave the problem he made unfixed, on his way back to Mali, Musa borrowed all the gold he was able to carry from money-lenders in Cairo. He didn’t mind the high-interest rates. This denouement of events made Musa the only man in history to directly control the price of the gold in some areas. His pilgrimage was finished before the end of 1325.

Building Conquests

Djinguereber Mosque

Djinguereber Mosque

Mansa Musa was very passionate when it came to fate and education. By some sources, during the time of his rule, every week one new mosque would be erected in Mali. As the greatest Islamic heritage to his people, Musa left the famous Djinguereber Mosque in the city of Timbuktu. He hired architects from Spain and Cairo to help in building the structure. For a brief period of time, the welfare of his legacy was jeopardized as Mossi kingdom(today’s Burkina Faso) captured Timbuktu. However, Musa managed to get his city back in a matter of months.

Death of Mansa Musa

Death of Mansa Musa is a vague matter when it comes to establishing the precise year. If compared to the reigns of his successors, son Mansa Maghan (recorded rule from 1337 to 1341) and older brother Mansa Suleyman (recorded rule from 1341 to 1360), and Musa’s recorded 25 years of rule, the calculated date of death is 1337. Different sources state that Musa intended to abdicate the throne to his son Maghan. After he returned from Mecca in 1325, death prevented him from implementing the idea.


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