Mansa Musa: Inside the life of the wealthiest man of all time

Today's billionaires sure are something, right? With unfathomably rich people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Jeff Bezos in the news on an almost-daily basis, it's easy to think that we live in an era of real-life Scrooge McDucks. Surely, those three people alone have access to the kind of wealth that has never been seen before.

Or so you'd think! As always, history likes to throw curveballs, and it turns out there was indeed a man whose earthly possessions overshadowed all three of the aforementioned gentlemen. His name was Mansa Musa, and to put things in comparison: As of July 30, 2020 Forbes estimated Bezos as the world's richest living person, with a net worth of around $180 billion. Gates weighed in at a little under $113 billion, while Buffett brought a neat $73 billion in the table. Combined, these three men's net worth is $366 billion. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Mansa Musa's net worth was $400 billion.

But who exactly was Mansa Musa? And how did this impossibly rich man spend his days? Let's take a look at the life of Mansa Musa, the wealthiest man of all time.

Mansa Musa was the ruler of the super-rich Kingdom of Mali

As National Geographic tells us, Mansa Musa ruled the Kingdom of Mali from 1312 C.E. to 1337 C.E. During his 25 years on the throne, the kingdom became the richest in all of Africa, and took up much of the western continent. The kingdom was already pretty well-off when Musa took the throne after his father disappeared on a trip to explore the Atlantic Ocean. However, Musa proved to be a world-class administrator, who expanded Mali's trade relations and invested heavily on urban development. He bankrolled many cities to unforeseen glory, including his most famous project, Timbuktu, which became a famous Islamic university city. 

Thanks to Mali's vast deposits of gold and salt, as well as readily available ivory, Musa was soon rich beyond belief, and his kingdom was the Islamic world's most esteemed center for learning. The story so far may make him seem like some kingly version of a humble civil servant, making good deals and investing the profits to benefit the people. Don't worry, though, it's about to get juicy. See, Musa was a very capable ruler, but he was also a big believer in "if you've got it, flaunt it." As such, when he exited Mali for his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 C.E., the people on his path were in for the surprise of a lifetime.   

Mansa Musa's epic trip through Egypt

The word "legend" gets thrown around a lot, but Mansa Musa appears to have genuinely earned the title. At least, history books indicate that he certainly spent enough to be eligible. 

During Musa's pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 C.E., his caravan reportedly included tens of thousands of people, and his travel wallet was a few dozens of camels, each loaded with 300 pounds of gold. To give you an idea of how much gold this was, at one point Musa's entourage stopped in Cairo so he could meet the Sultan of Egypt. During their stay there, the people from Mali both spent and simply gave away so much of the precious metal that the value of gold actually decreased in Egypt. For the next 12 years.

Over time, Musa's riches became so well-known that Europeans started to take note. In 1375, his reputation even reached global status when the Spanish Catalan Atlas drew his image over West Africa, lounging on a throne and holding a staff and a gold nugget. So, until some current or future billionaire both surpasses Musa's net worth and releases a map where the US West Coast is just a picture of them sitting on a pile of money, it's probably safe to say that Mansa Musa rules the roost when it comes to personifications of sheer wealth.