What Effect Did Mansa Musa’s Pilgrimage to Mecca Have on Mali?

When Mansa Musa, the emperor of Mali in the 14th century, returned from Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, he was accompanied by Arab scholars, bureaucrats and architects, whose collective influence on Mali was markedly positive. The architect Ishaq El Teudjin, in particular, introduced a number of advanced building techniques.

The buildings El Teudjin designed included a mosque at Gao, Mali’s second largest city, and another at Timbuktu which still stands today. These mosques, along with libraries and universities, allowed for greater and more intensive Islamic education in Mali.

Musa’s renown attracted commerce and scholarship to the country, and Timbuktu became one of the capitals of the Islamic world. At the time, this meant that it was also one of the most advanced cities in the entire world, and Timbuktu was unquestionably the cultural and commercial center of Islamic Sub-Saharan Africa.

The emperor’s pilgrimage also brought Musa’s homeland of Mali to the attention of European cartographers. For the first time, in 1339, Mali was featured on a European map, along with the name and likeness of Mansa Musa himself.

Musa’s renown was largely established by his flamboyant entourage and extravagant spending. Every city that he passed through received a donation from his riches. He was also known to order the construction of a mosque if the day happened to be Friday when he stopped.