I cycled across Africa for a place at my dream university- Mamadou Barry


Mamadou Barry couldn’t afford a plane ticket to enrol at his dream university – so he decided to cycle from Guinea to Egypt. All he had on him was a small bag of clothes, $55, and a handwritten map, BBC reports.

His journey began about four months ago and he rode through Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Niger. Arriving in Chad, he managed to get financial support for a flight to Egypt.

“I just thought: You have to leave now. If you stay here the years will pass, you will never get the chance to go.”

BBC said, “After failing his final secondary school exams five times in a row, Mamadou wanted to try a different type of education, setting his sights on Al Azhar University in Cairo, one of the top Islamic universities in the world.”

“So he set off with the plan of cycling to Egypt and applying for a place when he got there. The decision took him on an epic adventure as he cycled thousands of miles through countries troubled by violent insurgencies.”

“I thought: God will help me. I’m on God’s path, he won’t abandon me.”

Mamadou was stopped by police a number of times on his journey, and was detained in Togo for 9 days. But he didn’t lose hope. “I didn’t know what they wanted to do with me. But I wasn’t too worried. I didn’t doubt that they would release me eventually.”

Mamadou also experienced a lot of kindness on his journey, no more so than when he got to Chad. He stayed there for a month as he worked out how to cross Sudan which was in the midst of a civil war.

According to BBC, a Guinean man in France raised the money to buy him a plane ticket to Cairo, and he was able to make the final leg of his journey. “It was a sweet, sweet feeling”, Mamadou recalls.

This meant he avoided cycling through Sudan, parts of which are currently war-zones.

Upon his arrival in Cairo on September 5, the Dean of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Dr Nahla Elseidy met him and offered him a seat in their Islamic Studies course.

Elseidy wrote on her Facebook page that “this support not only covers international students in Egypt but also extends abroad. Al-Azhar receives students from all countries, takes care of them, and offers them grants.”

He told the BBC that he was “very, very happy” after discovering that he was also given a full scholarship. “I cannot tell you how happy I was. I thanked God,” he remarked.

Mr Barry added that the trials of his expedition are long forgotten – erased by the joy of being able to call himself an al-Azhar scholar.

(Cover Image: Mamadou and his bike. Credit: Courtesy of Mamadou Barry)

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