The documentary, Caravans of Gold focuses on how the economic values of gold and how it influenced the trade in the early days of Africa. In many areas of Africa such as Mali, Niger River, Ghana (Ashanti) gold was the primary means of trade and camel caravans were the means of transportation for long distance trade. The gold reflected the wealth of the people Ashanti powers depended of its agriculture and military strength but its gold had a far wider influence. The Mali Empire was one of the biggest trading systems in the world. The Egyptians explained that it took four months to travel across the river to trade, up and down the Nile River. The Nile River was polluted with the daily traffic of the traders. Gold was important to the people surrounding the Nile River. The people surrounding the Nile fished around the river for their daily protein. The famous traveler of the 19th century travelled through the Nile River to Mali and describe the beauty, culture and trade of Mali. Word about the wealth of West Africa during this time got out across the world, even to the distance lands of Europe. European artists depicted a map of the trade and wealth of West Africa. The map gave Europe ‘of that time pictorial news of West Africa.
The map depicted the figure of a Berber displaying gold to the wealthiest man during that time, an African man. Berbers were the trade travelers of that time. In Timbuktu, an emperor that was eager to advance knowledge and religion, turned his city into a place of learning and religion. At the heart of Timbuktu the emperor built a masque which changed the architecture of African cities. This marked the beginning of Timbuktu’s reputation of scholarly achievement. Islamic laws of politics and theology were taught in Timbuktu. A Spanish man wrote down his impression of Timbuktu. Based on his written expression of the land, the teachings of Islam brought on a new literacy to West Africa. The children of this region, Timbuktu, had to learn the Arabic language.