Al-Umari’s Account of Mansa Musa’s Visit to Cairo
Mansa Musa was the leader of the Mali empire in the fourteenth century and reportedly the wealthiest person – allegedly ever. The empire covered modern-day Mali and parts of Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, and the Gambia, and Mansa Musa expanded the territorial claim to include Gao and Timbuktu. There are a number of written sources about Mansa Musa from the Arabic world and he was the ruler at what is considered the peak of the Mali empire.
Mansa Musa made a famous visit to Cairo, Egypt while he went on hajj, or a pilgrimage, to Mecca between 1324 and 1325. He sought to increase the empire's ties to the Muslim world. His spending was so extravagant with his spending and gift-giving in Cairo that contemporary writers such as Al-Umari noted that his trip affected the value of gold, which is what this primary source document discusses.
This source, written by Al-Umari, an Arab historian from Damascus, is one of the more well-known sources related to Mansa Musa and his hajj. Students can read this translated excerpt to gain an understanding of a large, prominent African empire from sub-Saharan Africa and the larger Muslim world during the post-classical period.
This virtual source can be found at this link.
"Mansa Musa's Visit to Cairo," from Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, Edited by Nehemiah Levtzion & J. F. P. Hopkins (Cambridge University Press, 1981) pp. 269-273. Sourced from Digital History at the University of Houston, 2021, https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/active_learning/explorations/1492/mansa_musa_visit.cfm.