Al Sahili

Malian architect

Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Sahili (1290–1346) was an architect during the Mali Empire. He lived under the rule of Mansa Musa.

He was born in Granada in 1290. At the time this was part of Muslim Spain. Al-Sahili studied law and the arts. He was known as a gifted poet. His family were rich merchants (traders). He left Granada in 1321 and began to travel through the Middle East, to Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In 1346, he met the ruler of Mali, Mansa Musa, who loved his poetry and invited him to return.

Al-Sahili built for Mansa Musa an audience chamber (or Djingereyber; Great Mosque) in 1327. The mosque was described as a square building with a dome. The outside was decorated with plaster and patterns in colors. It was built with banco: soil mixed with wood, mixed with dried grass, and other fibers allowed to dry in the sun. It was built with the same architectural style as the Alhambra in Granada. Mansa Musa then wanted him to make a house for him, but the building was destroyed over time. He started a new trend of rounded arches in Timbuktu. Al-Sahili died there in 1346.


  • Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure, ed. (2004), "Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Sahili", West African Kingdoms: 500-1590, World Eras, vol. 10, Detroit: Gale, pp. 322–326, ISBN 9780787660475