Mansa Musa (Musa I)män´sä mo͞o´sä [key], c.1280–1337, ruler of the Mali empire (1312–37). A devout Muslim, he brought the Mali empire to its greatest height, encompassing what is now Niger and parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and Ivory Coast. He built schools, libraries, and mosques, and encouraged the development of the arts, architecture, and literature, and Timbuktu became a center of Muslim culture and scholarship. His empire included almost half of the Old World's supply of gold and also was wealthy from taxes on the caravan trade and from salt; he may have been the richest person of all time. His pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324–25 brought Mali fame throughout the world; he traveled with an immense entourage, preceded by 500 slaves carrying staffs decorated with gold. His gifts of gold in Cairo were so lavish that the metal was devalued in Egypt.
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