Feb 18 201668 Kingdom of the Mahdi, Part Two

After successfully defeating the Ottoman-Egyptian and British forces at Khartoum, Sudan formed an independent government based around Muhammad Ahmad, the self-proclaimed Mahdi or “expected one.” Unfortunately for Sudan, though, Ahmad died of Typhus only six months after the birth of the new state, and Mahdist Sudan was almost immediately faced with a succession crisis.

It would only be the first of many trials for the new state. Regional rebellions and border skirmishes, a war with neighboring Ethiopia, and economic isolation and famine would all take their toll on Sudan, and over the lifetime of the Mahdist state, millions of Sudanese citizens would die as a result of violence and privation.


Map via.

Feb 26 201519 Hey Big Spender

You can do a lot of things with wealth. You can buy stuff, make things happen, bribe officials, give to the poor… Or, if you’re Mansa Musa of Mali (one of the richest people in the history of the world) you can give away so much gold that you single-handedly cause inflation in Cairo.

The small image below is a detail from the Catalan Atlas, a 1375 Spanish map with a small detail that depicts Mansa Musa in the approximate location of Mali.

Mansa Musa

Related Links:

A Huffington Post article declaring Mansa Musa the “richest man of all time.”

Mansa Musa on Crash Course World History.

More images from the Catalan Atlas, which shows the best-known image of Mansa Musa.

Feb 05 201516 The Siege of the Grand Mosque

In 1979 a group of religious extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and began a siege that would last over two weeks. The bloody event shook the Muslim world, and prompted reactions in Saudi Arabia that affect that country to this day.

Smoke rising from the Grand Mosque, Mecca, 1979

Related Links:

This issue of Al Majalla, an English language Arabian magazing, has extensive coverage of the siege.

Yaroslav Trofimov, author of of The Siege of Mecca, speaking about the event to NPR.

Read unclassified US State Department memos about the siege here and here.

Footage of the siege on YouTube.