In the grand scheme of things, very little is known of Mansa Musa’s life. We know that he was one of the greatest emperors of the Mali Empire. And we know that he was actually one of the richest men of all time due to the enormous gold deposits in West Africa that were under his dominion, but large parts of Mansa Musa’s life remain a mystery.
We know, for example, that he later expanded the reach of the Mali Empire considerably, eventually incorporating the legendary Timbuktu into his realm. Such things certainly make for fascinating tales, but the truth is much of Mansa Musa’s early life is virtually unknown. This is largely due to the fact that Mansa Musa did not have a biography of his exploits written about him during the time in which he lived.
Rather than a written record, the narrative of his exploits that are remembered come down to us through the lore of the griot—Mali’s oral storytellers. The tales that these bards spin are indeed riveting, but they tend to focus on certain key events in Mansa Musa’s later life. The epic journey of Mansa’s hajj to Mecca is covered, and so are some other key parts of his personal history. But many other aspects still draw a blank.
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