For centuries the Berber caravans, now using camels, would take two months to cross the Sahara to meet traders in West Africa. The most precious item they found on offer turned out to be gold dust. Despite their efforts to discover the actual source of the gold, their African partners maintained secrecy but were happy to trade the gold for scarce salt which the Berbers sourced from mines in mid-Sahara.
This contributed to the fabled reputation of Marrakech and to the posting of Moroccan governors and garrisons in far-off Tombouctou overseeing the treasure that helped sustain North Africa for one thousand years. In 1594 Saadian Sultan, Ahmad al-Mansour received a consignment of 30 mules carrying gold and at the close of his reign ten tons had been delivered and the Sultan as well as being titled al-mansour – victorious- was also called al-dahhabi – the golden.