Saturday, December 31, 2005

What was special about Mansa Musa's Hajj?

Mansa Musa, King of Mali
The Hajj That Changed the Course of History
By Aisha R. Masterton**

King Mansa Musa is famous for his Hajj journey, during which he stopped off in Egypt and gave out so much gold that the Egyptian economy was ruined for years to come. Mansa Musa was the great-great-grandson of Sunjata, who was the founder of the empire of Mali. His 25-year reign (1312-1337 CE) is described as “the golden age of the empire of Mali” (Levztion 66).

While Sunjata focused on building an ethnic Malinke empire, Mansa Musa developed its Islamic practice. He performed his Hajj in 1324. According to Levztion, the journey across Africa to Makkah took more than a year and it took a powerful king to be able to be absent from his kingdom for so long. Mansa Musa journeyed along the Niger River to Mema, then to Walata, then through Taghaza and on to Tuat, which was a trade center in central Africa. Tuat attracted traders from as far as Majorca and Egypt and its traders included Jews as well as Muslims.

When he arrived in Egypt, Mansa Musa camped near the Pyramids for three days. He then sent a gift of 50,000 dinars to the Sultan of Egypt before settling in Cairo for three months. The Sultan lent him his palace for the summer and made sure that his entourage was treated well. Mansa Musa gave away thousands of ingots of gold, and Egyptian traders took advantage of this by charging five times the normal price for their goods. The value of gold in Egypt decreased as much as 25 percent. By the time Mansa Musa returned to Cairo from Hajj, however, he had run out of money and had to borrow from local Egyptian merchants.

read the complete article here