Dreams do come true, but for 25-year-old Mamadou Safayou Barry, it meant embarking on a 4,000km (2,500 mile) bicycle tour through West Africa in order to gain admission to his dream institution, Egypt’s famed Al-Azhar.
His voyage began in Guinea in May with the intention of earning admission to Egypt’s Al-Azhar, but it was marred by meetings with Islamist extremists and political turmoil. Along the journey, he encountered arrests and high heat, which put his determination to pursuing his educational goals at Al-Azhar University to the test.
According to the BBC, he claimed that even though he couldn’t afford both an Islamic studies course and travel to Egypt, he was eager to make the epic trek through Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger, and Chad because of the university’s prestigious reputation.
Barry expressed his delight at being offered a scholarship for his studies at Al-Azhar University upon his arrival in Cairo. Al-Azhar University, founded in AD670, is one of the oldest Islamic institutions of higher study. It is a worldwide prominent Sunni Islamic educational institution.
The university’s esteemed standing was the driving cause behind the perilous voyage the Guinean father took away from home in search of Islamic knowledge. However, it was marred by suspicion and difficulties in several places along the road. He faced great obstacles while traveling through Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where Islamist militant attacks on civilians and previous government coups have created an atmosphere of severe insecurity.
He regarded the voyage through these countries as particularly tough due to the region’s lack of security. Barry visited a place plagued by several difficulties and terrified individuals when traveling across Mali and Burkina Faso. Locals greeted him with distrust, and he frequently saw a substantial military presence armed with heavy armament and vehicles.
He went on to say that he was wrongfully arrested and detained three times, twice in Burkina Faso and once in Togo. When he arrived in Chad, his fortunes improved after a journalist interviewed him about his adventure. This resulted in his tale being spread online, and charitable people financed a ticket to Egypt for him, saving him from riding through Sudan’s war-torn areas.
On September 5, he arrived in Cairo, where his tenacity earned him a meeting with Dr. Nahla Elseidy, Dean of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar. Following their conversation, Dr. Elseidy offered Barry a full scholarship at Al-Azhar’s Islamic Studies degree.