Man cycles across six countries for place at Egypt's Al-Azhar University
A Guinean student cycled 4,000km (2,500 miles) across West Africa to Egypt’s famous Al-Azhar University in the hopes that the ancient Islamic institution will give him a place.
Mamadou Safayou Barry endured blazing heat, arrests, militant insurgencies and military coups as he set off from his home in Guinea in May on an epic four-month trek.
He arrived in Egypt on September 5, having travelled through Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Benin, Niger and Chad.
While in Chad, Barry’s story caught national attention and well-wishers donated funds for him to fly to Egypt, meaning he could avoid cycling through Sudan’s active warzones.
Barry, a 25-year-old married father of one, could not afford the Islamic studies course he had long dreamed of, nor could he afford flights to Egypt. However, he decided that he would prove his determination to study at the university by cycling there.
Al-Azhar is one of the oldest universities in the world and while the institution was initially established as a Shia seat of learning in 972AD, it is now the most prestigious Sunni university in the world.
'I thanked God'
Barry’s determination to study there emerged from his self-declared desire to seek “Islamic knowledge”, but the young Guinean was lucky he made it there at all.
"To travel through these countries is very hard because they don't have security at this time,” he told the BBC.
“They have so many problems and people there are very scared - in Mali and Burkina Faso people were looking at me like I am a bad man. All over I was seeing the military with their big guns and cars,” he added.
Man cycles across 6 countries to secure spot in dream university.— Notedly Known Context (@NotedlyKnown) September 22, 2023
Mamadou Safayou Barry covered 4,000km across six West African countries, cycling to Egypt's Al-Azhar University.
Despite financial constraints and challenging conditions, including arrests, he journeyed through >> pic.twitter.com/OHynPq0d7p
Though Barry says he was detained several times in Burkina Faso and Togo, once he reached Egypt his gambit paid off and he was granted a meeting with Al-Azhar’s Dean of Islamic Studies Dr Nahla Elseidy.
His extraordinary story convinced the Elseidy to give Barry a place on the university’s Islamic Studies course with a full scholarship.
“I cannot tell you how happy I was … I thanked God,” Barry told the BBC upon hearing he was to become an Al-Azhar scholar.