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In the Mali Empire, there was so much gold that the kings and elites became very rich. Gold and other goods like copper, spices, rock salt, and ivory flowed through Mali, and the center of all this trade was in Timbuktu. European explorers couldn’t even find the famous golden city for five centuries. They learned about it in the 1300s, but it wasn’t until the early 1800s that a European explorer ever made it there and lived to tell others.