In 1324, Mansa Musa, the legendary ruler of the vast West African empire of Mali, set off for a pilgrimage to Mecca. Like many other devout Muslim rulers before him and after, Musa did not travel alone. He brought along with him one of the largest caravans ever to cross the Sahara—a traveling entourage of 60,000 men, including 12,000 servants, 8,000 courtiers and one hundred camels, each loaded with sacks of pure gold, while the slaves carried more gold in the form of bars, nuggets and staffs.
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King Mansa Musa as depicted in the Catalan Atlas. Photo: Wikimedia Commons