The Songhai Empire dominated the western Sahel in the 15th and 16th century.
At its peak the empire was one of the largest in both Islamic and African history. The Songhai people were the ruling elite in the empire. Gao was the capital of the empire. Other important cities in the empire were Timbuktu and Djenné, conquered in 1468 and 1475 respectively. Trade flourished in those towns.
Initially, the empire was ruled by the Sonni dynasty (c. 1464–1493), but it was later replaced by the Askiya dynasty (1493–1591).