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The Malian Empire

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The empire of Mali, in western Africa, started in about 1240. The empire is also called the Malingo Empire and Manden Kurufa. The empire was founded by the Malinke people led by Sundiata. During his reign, he developed the city of Timbuktu. The city became the center of trade and culture in the empire. After Sundiata’s death, Mansa Musa became emperor of Mali in 1307. Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim. His pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, introduced Mali to the world. All the people that saw his caravan were flabbergasted. Many merchants came to the empire because of the empire’s gold surplus. The empire of Mali became rich because of the trade increase. Mali formed in the southern area of what used to be the empire of Ghana. Both the empires were rich of gold. However, the empire of Mali was larger than Ghana. The empire of Mali conquered the surrounding cities of what had been Ghana like Djenné and Gao. The empire had many and more trade networks because the empire’s expansiveness. Mansa Musa helped expand the empire. Mansa Musa also was in charge of the Trans-Saharan trade. Trade and merchants coming to the empire, the empire became rich. Mansa Musa was possibly the wealthiest man of his time. Mansa Musa was the emperor after Sundiata.

Mansa is a Malinke word that means king. Musa is an Arabic word that means Moses. His name was Arabic because he was a Muslim. Mansa Musa wanted to accomplish one of the Five Pillars of Islam. He set up a grand caravan for his pilgrimage to Mecca. Mansa Musa brought 60,000 men, 12,000 slaves, organized horses, and handled bags. In front of him had five hundred slaves and heralds dressed in silks and bearing gold staffs. People who saw the caravan were astonished. More merchants wanted to go to the empire of Mali. West African gold granted financial support for the European Renaissance. When Mansa Musa came back to Mali, he brought an architect who designed the Sankore mosque in Timbuktu. The best poets and artists, like the architect, came to Timbuktu. Sundiata created the city of Timbuktu. The city is located on the Niger River where the desert and savannah vegetation zones met. Timbuktu was a center of trade and culture. It is also the center of Islamic scholarship. After Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca, Timbuktu was where many merchants, poets, and artists went. Religious scholars educated people with history, theology, and law in Timbuktu.

The Sankore mosque was built in Timbuktu. The mosque was built during the declining years of the Empire of Mali. The empire of Mali declined around 1500 because of rebellion and invasions. The empire’s territories drastically decrease. The empire, founded by the Malinke people guided by Sundiata, was no longer a powerful empire. Sundiata constructed the city of Timbuktu. In 1433, Berber nomads captured the city. Although the empire declined, Mansa Musa still “put Mali on the map” and wrote the history of Africa. Like the empire of Mali, the Songhai also expanded their empire. The empire was smaller than Mali located around the eastern border of what used to be the empire of Mali. Everyone who conquered western Africa benefited to the gold. Every empire that had a great trade network, the Trans-Saharan trade, led to prosperity and wealth of an empire.

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