The history of Africa is full of alluring and fascinating stories. The journey of Mansa Musa, the emperor of West African Empire, to Mecca, however, stands above most of them. The number of people it involved and the financial side of it causes its relevance, which was impressive for the 14th century Africa. This paper will give a short account of Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage and the role it played in history.
By his religious views, King Mansa Musa was a dedicated Muslim. Naturally, he put a lot of effort into preparing for his pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabia. The distance that he had to cover was intimidating even for the modern standards – 3000 miles. Due to that, the king ordered everyone involved in the pilgrimage to start appropriate preparations many months in advance. The first vital thing that the servants needed to do was to gather enough animals, mostly goats, camels and cows for food and as the carrying force. As far as the provision was concerned, the journeymen did not take anything except necessary food, clothes, and gold. The latter, however, was in an impressive quantity – a hundred animals carried 30,000 pounds of pure gold.
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Since Mansa Musa was a person of very high status, his pilgrimage included many other people who were responsible for creating comfortable conditions for the king. Today the exact number of people involved is unknown, but it is estimated that the journey included approximately 60 thousand people, among whom 1/5 were slaves. There were also servants just for the king’s wife, as well as teachers, doctors, and entertainers.
When the journey started in 1324, the booming sound of drums was heard everywhere around Niani. The King was carrying the flag of his empire and riding a camel behind 500 slaves transporting gold. The journey that took 8 months went through Egypt where the caravan had a stop to visit the Sultan. After some rest and talks about other rules, the King headed to Arabia, his final destination. By the time the travelers were approaching the city, their arrival was known to everyone so local residents crowded the streets to catch a glimpse of the caravan. In Mecca, Musa fulfilled his intention by performing a haji and went back to his empire giving gifts to people on his way.
As far as the impacts of the pilgrimage go, they are numerous. First, Mansa Musa established his presence for other rulers in Europe and the Middle East. Secondly, the amount of gold they carried and the king’s generosity in its regard expressed his wealthy status. This made his empire known outside African continent and attracted merchants who developed trade with the rest of the continent as well as the Middle East. Finally, it also opened Western Sudan to Muslims from other places who developed education and religious practices there. All these factors reflect the importance of Mansa Musa’s