The origins of Mali's empire date back to the early 13th century, when the country's first ruler won a victory at the Battle of Kuolikoro and took control of the trans-Saharan trade routes. Trade made the state rich and powerful. Subsequent conquests allowed it to expand its territory and develop, eventually growing into an empire.
The empire owed much of its splendor and wealth to its ruler, Mansa Musa, who is considered the richest man in history.
It was centered around the Manding region (between southern Mali and eastern Guinea). It encompassed most of the western part of the Sudan region - a historical and geographical land in Africa.
The total area of the empire included almost all of the land between the Sahara and the coastal forests, areas of the modern states of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, northern Burkina Faso, western Niger, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and northern Ghana.
Sundiata is also known as Sogolon Djata (the name Sogolon is borrowed from his mother, the "Buffalo Woman," so called because of her ugliness and hump).
Sundiata was a Muslim, but he was eager to exploit the local religion (traditional beliefs and practices) and build his reputation as a man of powerful magic.
Five years later he conquered the kingdom of Ghana, gaining access to rich gold and salt deposits. Initially, he sent salt, pottery, vessels, jewelry and gold from local mines and slaves to the north by caravans.
The Mali Empire was probably a federation in which each tribe had a representative on the council.
The first tribes were the Traore, Kamara, Koroma, Konde, and Keita clans. The tribal council supervised the mansa - the king of kings - by issuing his decrees and choosing his successor, who was usually the mansa's brother or sister's son.
However, tradition says that he died crossing the Sankarani River, where a reliquary still stands today.
They were: Mansa Wali Keita, Ouati Keita, and Khalifa Keita. The most famous West African ruler of the empire, Mansa Musa, was Sundiata's grandson.
It greatly influenced the culture of the entire region through the spread of the empire's languages (it was Mandinka language), laws, and customs.
There is a lot of recorded information about the Mali Empire from the 14th century North African historian Ibn Khaldun and two 14th century Moroccan travelers: Ibn Battuta and Leo Africanus.
Another important source of information about the empire is the Mandinka oral tradition, written down by storytellers known as griots.
He was the tenth Mansa to reign from 1312 to 1337. He became famous for his expedition to Mecca and Cairo, conquering a number of neighboring countries and leading the country to economic, scientific and cultural prosperity.
Timbuktu is a city in Mali, on the Niger River. Founded in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, for centuries it was the center of intensive trade between Black Africa (sub-Saharan Africa) - the part of the continent south of the Sahara - and Berber and Islamic North Africa, and through it also with Europe.
During Musa's reign, Timbuktu became a center of learning and culture, attracting scholars from the Muslim world, especially historians, jurists, and theologians, who laid the foundation for the still in existence University of Sankore (Sankore Madrasah), a Koranic institution widely known in the Muslim world (along with Al-Azhar in Cairo, Al-Karawijjin in Fez, and the theological schools - madrassas - in Cairo and Córdoba).
Some of them date back to the 13th century. Researchers believe there are many thousands more under the sands of the Sahara. Among them are textbooks on mathematics and astronomy, as well as writings on social and economic life in the region during the Golden Age. At the time, Timbuktu was an academic center with 25,000 students.
Because of its illustrious history, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.
His pilgrimage to Mecca, which he made between 1324 and 1325, brought him fame in North Africa and the Middle East. it was both religious and political.
His route passed through Walata, Tuat (modern Algeria) and Cairo. To finance the journey, Mansa Musa imposed a special tax on his subjects.
He was accompanied on the journey by 60,000 people dressed in brocade (a thick fabric with a raised pattern interspersed with gold or silver thread) and Persian silk. In addition, 12,000 slaves carried gold ingots, and 500 with gold-decorated staffs preceded the traveling ruler on horseback. There were also 80 camels loaded with gold.
The university had one of the largest libraries in the world with approximately one million manuscripts.
At the beginning of the 14th century, Mali was the source of almost half of the gold exported to the Old World from the mines of Bambuku, Boure and Galam.
The gold nuggets were the exclusive property of the Manse, and trading them within the borders of the Empire was illegal.
The most common measure of gold in the kingdom was the Mithqāl (4.25 grams of gold).
It was as valuable, if not more valuable, than gold in sub-Saharan Africa. A particular source of it in the empire was the salt mines of Taghaza (Ibn Battuta wrote that there were no trees in Taghaza, only sand and salt mines).
Copper was also a valuable commodity, mined in Takedda in the north and exchanged for gold in the south.
The army consisted of 100,000 soldiers, of which 10,000 were cavalry. In addition to weapons, it was equipped with war canoes and ships. Most of the dugout canoes had a structure made of a single log from a single massive tree trunk. They were over-carved.
Weapons were spears and bows with poisoned ironhead arrows. Swords and spears were the preferred weapons of the cavalry. Imperial Mali riders used iron helmets and spiked armor for defense, as well as shields.
This style is characterized by the use of basic earth materials. Another common, defining feature of Mali's architecture is the protruding wooden supports. Many architectural projects were completed during the reign of Mansa Musa.
During Musa's reign, the Mali Empire was probably the largest gold producer in the world, and his empire reached the height of its glory.
Mansa Musa conquered 24 cities and their surrounding districts. He developed trade and made his wealth from the trade of gold and salt, which reached skyrocketing prices in the Middle Ages.
He also cared for the welfare of his subjects and educated the most talented. He was known for his concern for the poor.
He appeared as the leader of the Mali civilization.