One of the greatest empires in the middle ages was in West Africa. King Mansa Musa Keita I is the richest person of all time, as his fortune was incomprehensible. He had land that was laden with profitable natural resources, most notably gold.

His vast wealth was only one piece of his legacy. He ruled the Malian Empire in the 14th century. He came into power in 1312 and when he was crowned he was given the name Mansa, which means king. While in power, Mansa Musa expanded the bodies of his empire tremendously.

Mansa Musa came to his throne through the practice of appointing a deputy when a king goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca, and later naming deputy as heir. He was appointed deputy of Abubakari Keita II, the king before him who had embarked on an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean and never returned. Musa was a devout Muslim and his pilgrimage to Mecca made him well known across Northern Africa and the Middle East. To Musa, Islam was his entry into the cultured world of the Eastern Mediterranean. He spent a lot of time fostering the growth of the religion within his empire. His empire stretched about 3218.7 km. Musa made his pilgrimage in the years 1324-1325. He travelled with an entourage of tens of thousands of soldiers, civilians and slaves. His entourage included 60 000 men; which included 12 000 slaves, who each carried 1.8kg of gold bars and heralds dressed in silk, who bore gold stalks, organised horses and handled bags. He provided all of his entourages needs; feeding the entire company of men and animals. The animals included 80 camels which each carried 23-136kg of gold. On his route to Mecca, he gave gold to the poor he met.

He not only gave to the cities he passed on his way to Mecca, he also traded gold for souvenirs. His journey was documented by eyewitnesses, who were in awe of his wealth and his extensive entourage. Musa’s gestures inadvertently devastated the economy of the cities which he passed. In the cities of Cairo, Medina and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued metal for the next decade. The prices on goods and wares greatly inflated. However, to rectify the gold market on his way back from Mecca, he borrowed all the gold he could carry from the money lenders in Cairo at high interest.

This was the only time recorded in history that one man controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean. The rest of the world caught wind of his great fortune in 1324, when he made his nearly 6437.4km pilgrimage to Mecca. This extravagant journey put Mansa on the Map. Material riches were not his only concern, as a devout Muslim, he took particular interest in Timbuktu. He went on to urbanise the city of Timbuktu by building schools, mosques and a major university. He also built the legendary Djinquereber Mosque in Timbuktu.

After reigning for 25 years, Mansa Musa died in 1337. He was succeeded by his son, Maghan I. The king’s rich legacy persisted generations and to this day, there are mausoleums, libraries and mosques that stand as a testament to this golden age of Malian history. Mansa Musa, the ruler of Malian Empire, which has an estimated net worth of $400 billion.