The Songhai Empire was the largest empire and became the last of the three major empires in West Africa. The empire existed from circa 1375 to 1591. It was one of the largest Muslim-populated empires in history.
The rise of Songhai was due to the decline of the Mali Empire after the death of its last and strongest king, Mansa Musa, in 1337.
The decline was traced to the period when Emperor Mansa Musa embarked on an extravagant pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. The king also failed to stop the invasion of Berber conquerors, who ruled Timbuktu for some time.
Subsequently, Sunni Ali in 1468 became the leader of Songhai, invaded Timbuktu, and conquered the Berbers.
He began a campaign of conquest and established the capital of the empire at Gao on the Niger River.
The Tomb of Askia the Great and evidently the most important of all emperors of the West African ancient empires was built in Songhai. The mosque in Gao is one of the most notable in West Africa.
The empire gained more recognition and importance through the control of the trade routes and the trade in slaves. Songhai eventually took control of Timbuktu and Jenne (Kabir Abdlkareem)