Mali: Past and Present


Image: Portrait of Mansa Musa in the Catalan Atlas. From the Stanford History Education Group.


The Mali Empire was one of the greatest powerhouses in the ancient world. The above image shows Mansa Musa, one of the Mali emperors, on an atlas created in the Middle Ages. It shows the influence and power the Mali Empire must have held, in order, for it to appear on important maps.

The empire wasn’t only powerful, but also extremely rich. In an article from Hasanar S. Rashid, during 1324 Mansa Musa, the emperor of Mali, journeyed to Mecca. His journey was part of a Muslim tradition, meant to honor their religion.

Mansa Musa’s journey became particularly significant, not only because he was an emperor, but also due to his generosity. While it was common for other Mali emperors to offer rare and precious gifts to each kingdom as they passed through, Mansa Musa offered gifts to everyone. He gave gifts to kings, members of the government, scholars, the poor, and many others. Each of these gifts were rare and expensive, because they were made mostly out of gold. Although, Mansa Musa’s generosity ended up causing the price of gold to drop significantly. The price drop crippled many economies, such as Egypt, for decades.

On Mansa Musa’s return he brought home many intelligent and talented people. He had artists, scholars, architects, and many others. During this time, architects built some of the greatest cities and buildings of the Mali Empire. They built the city of Timbuktu, which would become the center of Islamic knowledge gathered from all over the known world.

Unfortunately, in the country of present-day Mali, most of it’s importance has been forgotten. Mali is now known as one of the poorest countries in the world. Its has extremely low life expectancy and literacy rates. The country is also suffering from a rebellion, which is threatening to split the country apart.

Mansa Musa is important today, because he reminds people that they can’t always take the easier route. Mansa Musa was incredibly generous during his journey and it bought him the good will of the people. He was loved and honored after his journey, but his generosity caused more harm than good in the long run. He caused the price of gold to drop, because he gave too many gifts made out of gold. This crippled the economies of several countries for decades. The same concept applies today. Most people want the government to provide immediate help by cutting taxes. While it may help temporarily, it could cause further damage in later years.





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