are the observations of a Muslim Spaniard who traveled through
the kingdom of Ghana in the 11th century. They indicate
the complexity of the society.
city of Ghana consists of two towns lying on a plain, one of which
is inhabited by Muslims and is large, possessing twelve mosques-one
of which is a congregational mosque for Friday prayer; each has
its imam, its muezzin and paid reciters of the Quran. The town
possesses a large number of juriconsults and learned men.' . .
town inhabited by the king is six miles from the Muslim one and
is called Al Ghana.... The residence of the king consists of a
palace and a number of dome-shaped dwellings, all of them surrounded
by a strong enclosure, like a city wall. In the town
is a mosque, where Musl-lms who come on diplomatic missions to
hear the king pray. The town where the king lives is surrounded
by domed huts, woods, and copses where priest-magicians live;
in these woods also are the religious idols and tombs of the kings.
Special guards protect this area and prevent anyone from entering
it so that no foreigners know what is inside. Here also are the
king's prisons, and if anyone is imprisoned there, nothing more
is heard of him....
is the title of the kings of this people, while the name of their
country is Aoukar [Wagadu in surviving traditions, however]. The
king who governs them at present ... is called Tenkaminen; he
came to the throne in AD 455.... Tenkaminen is the master of a
large empire and a formidable power.... The king of Ghana can
put two hundred thousand warriors in the field, more than forty
thousand being armed with bow and arrow....
he gives audience to his people, to listen to their complaints
and set them to rights, he sits in a pavilion around which stand
ten pages holding shields and gold-
swords: and on his right hand are the sons of the princes of his
empire, splendidly clad and with gold plaited into their hair.
The governor of the city is seated on the ground in front of the
king, and all around him are his vizirs in the same position.
The gate of. the chamber is guarded by dogs of an excellent breed,
who never leave the king's seat: they wear collars of gold and
silver, ornamented with the same metals. The beginning of a royal
audience is announced by the beating of a kind of drum which they
call deba, made of a long piece of hollowed wood. The people gather
when they hear this sound....
king [of Ghana] exacts the right of one dinar of gold on each
donkey-load of salt that enters his country, and two dinars of
gold on each load of salt that goes out. A load of copper carries
a duty of five mitqals and a load of merchandise ten mitqals.
The best gold in the country comes from Ghiaru, a town situated
eighteen days' journey from the capital [Kumbi] in a country that
is densely populated by Negroes and covered with villages. All
pieces of native gold found in the mines of the empire belong
to the sovereign, although he lets the public have the gold dust
that everybody knows about; without this precaution, gold would
become so abundant as practically to lose its value.... The Negroes
... known as Nougharmarta are traders, and carry gold dust from
Iresni all over the place.....
Quoted in A.A Boahen, "Kingdoms of West Africa. C.A.D. 500-1600."