Here’s Why the Tomb of Askia is the Greatest and Best-Preserved Remnant of the Powerful Songhai Empire

Tomb of Askia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gio53


According to studies, ancient empires and kingdoms ruled 90% of Africa prior to the rise of European governments. Early European invaders only took 10% of the continent, from the Songhai Empire to the Aksumite Empire to the Ashanti Empire of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and others.

The Songhai Empire built the Tomb of Askia over 500 years ago, and it is still a revered relic today. In 1495, Askia Muhammad, Emperor of Songhai, built the Tomb of Askia. The complex also includes two flat-roofed mosque structures, a mosque cemetery, and an open-air assembly area in Gao, Mali, near the Niger River.

Askia Muhammad, a West African military and political leader, ascended to the Songhai Empire’s throne in 1493. His vast kingdom was one of the largest and most powerful in African history, and he was a great leader who established an efficient system for running it all.

He established provincial governments in Songhai, with governors in charge of each, as well as new departments and jobs in finance, justice, the interior, agriculture, and water, among other things. He established a permanent army led by a general and appointed an admiral to command his fleet of war canoes.

Askia Muhammad was a devout man who quickly established Islam as the religion of the nobility. According to reports, he gave the order to build what is now known as the Tomb of Askia after Gao was chosen as the empire’s formal capital and Islam was declared its official religion.

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the Tomb of Askia, a stunning 17-meter pyramidal building, is evidence of the empire’s strength and wealth, which flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries due to its control of the trans-Saharan trade, particularly in salt and gold. It’s also an excellent case study of the West African Sahelian tradition of building massive structures out of mud.

The most impressive structures in West Africa are frequently constructed with mud, either as bricks or as a more traditional building material. The savanna is ideal for mud brick construction because it receives enough rain to make bricks, plaster, and rammed earth but not enough to wash away the finished structures.

Rammed-earth construction is common in dry climates where timber is scarce. Different cities approached traditional mud architecture differently; in Djenne, for example, cylindrical mud bricks were used, whereas in others, basic dried-earth lumps were the preferred structural material.

According to the New World Encyclopedia, Askia’s tomb is located in front of the Great Mosque of Gao. Its design pays homage to the ancient Saharan practice of erecting large tumuli, or burial pyramids, on the graves of important ancestors, which dates back before 1000 B.C.E. This massive structure is part of an emerging mosque architectural style in which the structure serves as a shrine, tower, and burial ground.

The Tomb of Askia is located in northern Gao on Avenue des Askia. The capital of Mali’s Gao Region is Gao. It is located on the banks of the Niger River, about 200 miles southeast of Timbuktu. A ferry service on the Niger River connects Gao to nearby towns such as Timbuktu, and the city has an international airport.

Leave a Reply