Student cycles across Africa for place at university

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STORY: Guinean student Mamadou Safaiou Barry cycled thousands of miles across Africa for a place at the top Islamic university in Cairo.

It all started with a dream to study at Al-Azhar University, one of the world's oldest and most renowned Sunni Muslim learning institutions.

But he was unable to afford a flight to Egypt from Guinea.

So he drew a map of Africa in his notebook and set off on a second-hand mountain bike.

Four months and seven countries later, he is in Cairo with a full scholarship to the elite university.

"If you have a dream, all that you have to do to follow this dream [is] to go on its way, because that's what will help you. Not to say that, 'Today I'm doing this, tomorrow this.' No, you will never see a good road. But if you have a dream, rest on it and be strong on it, if you are on it, God will help you.”

Barry covered approximately 62 miles each day, passing through jungles, deserts and conflict zones.

He pedalled through Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Niger before stalling in N'Djamena, the Chadian capital.

His planned route was disrupted by an ongoing conflict in Sudan.

He said he had already been detained three times - twice in insurgency-plagued Burkina Faso, and once in Togo, where security forces held him for nine days without charge before releasing him in exchange for $56.

He said that was his entire savings for the remainder of the journey.

"I got tired on the bike and I often slept in the bushes, because in the cities I was a little afraid of people. Maybe if I slept in the city some thugs would come and take my bike and hurt me. So I really preferred to spend the night in the bush rather than in the cities."

Barry's luck changed again in Chad after a local philanthropist, who had read online about his journey, offered to fly him directly to Egypt and bypass the fighting in Sudan.

Barry arrived in Cairo on September 5th and days later secured a full scholarship to Al-Azhar.

He intends to return to Guinea when his studies are complete, to spread the faith that has taken him so far.

“I dream after that to be one of the biggest scholars in the world, the biggest Islamic scholar in the world.// And when I return to my country, I would like to be someone who teaches Islam and tells people how to do good things, to teach them."