Some of the richest men in the world today are tech billionaires and business leaders from the West and China. However, the title of “richest man who ever lived” goes to a little-known ancient ruler from a part of the world that is more often associated with poverty than with unimaginable wealth.
Musa took over as leader during a hard time when European countries were being destroyed by never-ending civil wars and a lack of resources. The Mali Empire, on the other hand, was thriving because it had a lot of gold and salt and other natural resources.
Under this leader, the empire grew to cover a large part of West Africa, from the Atlantic coast to Timbuktu, a trading center in the middle of the country, and even some parts of the Sahara. Just like the area he controlled grew, so did his money and wealth.
The rest of the world didn’t fully understand how much wealth King Musa controlled in his land until 1324. Musa was a religious Muslim who lived in a kingdom where most of the people were also Muslims. He went on pilgrimage to Mecca, but he didn’t go alone.
Musa went to the Holy Land with a caravan of tens of thousands of soldiers, slaves, and heralds. They were all dressed in expensive Persian silk and carried golden staffs. Even though there is a lot of disagreement about how many people were in his group, the convoy that went with him was a big deal. It included camels and horses carrying hundreds of pounds of gold.
This show of wealth caught the attention of the people who lived in the areas he traveled through, since such a large caravan would be hard to miss. When he went through Egypt, he had an effect on the people that would last for more than a decade.
When he got to Cairo, the capital of Egypt, and was forced to meet with al-Malik al-Nusar, the ruler of Cairo, his true character was shown. Ancient historian Shihab al-detailed Umari’s writings say that Musa was met in Cairo by a junior official of al-Nasir, who invited him to meet with other royals. Musa turned down the offer, saying he was just on his way to the holy land to make a pilgrimage.