What is left to tell us of medieval Mali?

We know that not much has been written down about medieval Mali. What objects still exist today to help us understand what the Malian Empire was like? How much do they reveal?

You can click here to download the worksheet for today’s lesson. If you are unable to download the worksheet, complete the tasks in the yellow boxes below.

Caravan = medieval traders, usually using camels to transport their goods across Africa.

Who do you think the richest person of all time is? Could it be any of the people you see below?
Click on the answer button to reveal the correct answer!

TASK ONE: How did Musa Mansa become so wealthy?

Watch the video below on how Mansa Musa became the richest man to have ever lived. Answer the following questions:
1) Why did capturing the cities of Timbuktu and Gao help Mansa Musa?
2) What two natural resources did Mali have lots of?
3) Why might Mansa Musa have built lots of mosques and given lots of money to the poor on his pilgramege to Mecca?
4) Why was Timbuktu a particularly important place under Mansa Musa?

TASK TWO: What can we learn about life under Mansa Musa?

Look at Source A below depicting Mansa Musa:
a) What can you see in the source?
b) What does this infer about what life was like in Mali under Mansa Musa.

I have added some arrows and circles on the source to help you pick out some key features.

In Source A, I can see…
This suggests that life in Medieval Mali was…

SOURCE A: A picture of medieval Mali, showing Mansa Musa, in a world atlas drawn by a Spanish trader in 1375.

TASK THREE: What do the buildings of Timbuktu reveal about medieval Mali?

Under Mansa Musa, Timbuktu became the centre of the African Islamic world. Read the information and complete the table below to help you understand what you can know about medieval Mali from these buildings, and what you can infer. I have given you an example.

What do the buildings in Timbuktu reveal?

The importance of Timbuktu

Timbuktu was an important city in Africa for over four-hundred years. Based on the Niger river, Timbuktu was a trading hub for caravans from West Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Gold, ivory, food and (most importantly of all) salt passed through the hands of the traders, making Timbuktu extremely wealthy. The vast number of salt mines near Timbuktu helped keep caravans returning and spending their money in the city.

The Djinguereber Mosque

The commitment to Islam grew under Mansa Musa, and mosques began to appear across Mali. The grandest and most famous was the Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu. Like most buildings in Timbuktu, it is built with a special earth compound that keeps the building secure and cool inside.

The many chambers inside acted as a hub for Muslims across Africa to meet in, share teachings and practice their faith.

A picture from inside the mosque

The University of Timbuktu

On the same grounds of the Djinguereber Mosque is the University of Timbuktu. Along with an increased comittment to Islam in Mali came Islamic education. The mosques taught children and young adults educational and spiritual teachings.

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