Areas Ruled

The Songhai Empire was located in the western area of Africa. The Songhai people lived near the Niger River. It was formed by combining the Empires of Ghana and Mali. When Muhammad Ture ruled the empire expanded into the Sahara, Mali, and the West African coastal area of Senegambia. When Muhammad ruled he divided the Empire into 10 provinces, each ruled by people close to him. Songhai’s capital and trading port was located in Gao.

Everyday Life

The Songhai greeted each other in the morning with a friendly hello and a conversation focused on the work and health of one’s home life. They are known for their generosity. When strangers entered the empire they were housed, fed, and treated very kindly even if the hosts were poor. Young men were expected to be respectful of young women and in return the young women were shy around the young men. Girls would often look at the ground when talking publicly to boys their age and two-three years older.

Social and Political Organization

The Social and Political Organization of the Songhai People wasn’t very complex. The upper classman converted to the Islamic religion while the lower classman followed their original religions. The preaching’s were not traditional, they were used to emphasize the power of the king. Sonni Ali created a network of government ruled by the royals. Muhammad expanded the original system by appointing mayors and governors over the 13 provinces he established throughout the empire. Local chiefs still had power over their area, but they had to understand the rules of the Songhai Society. The complexity of the society was a little less complex compared to other places worldwide, but that’s what made the empire special.


The Songhai people were very religious. They prayed at least five times a day; they avoided alcohol and pork, observed a one month fast during today's established Ramadan, and did their best to make the hajj (the very expensive pilgrimage to Mecca). Traditional Songhai life was seen as a continuation of the passage across dangerous crossroads. They regularly consulted fortunetellers and sorcerers. The fortune tellers and sorcerers were trained to know everything and anything. Most of the religion came from cultures before them, but mainly the Songhai were Islam or Muslim.

Arts, Technology, and Developed Culture

In the Songhai Empire the culture, art, and technology was very advanced. The education had two forms; informal and formal. Parents informally taught their children life skills, while the children also attended school. The cultural heritage included singing, dancing, and poetry. They were mostly performed at marriages, births, and holidays. The Songhai was known for blanket and matt weaving. They spoke in their language that was very similar to French. Trade was a huge part of Songhai culture. They traded salt, gold, koala nut, and slaves most often. The Songhai overall were interesting and knew what they were doing as an empire.