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A-Lister Surprises Man Who Biked Across Africa



Quick Smiles:

  • Mamadou Safayou Barry, a man from Guinea, cycled 2,500 miles across West Africa and the Sahara Desert, hoping to be accepted into an Egyptian university.
  • After a journey fraught with challenges, Barry’s efforts caught the attention of a local philanthropist in Chad who arranged for his flight to Cairo.
  • Upon reaching Egypt, the prestigious Al-Azhar University offered Barry a full scholarship, and Hollywood star Will Smith gifted him a new bicycle and laptop for his studies.

Our parents often regale us with tales of their long, uphill walks to school, braving rain and snow. But when it comes to pedal-powered journeys to education, Mamadou Safayou Barry has raised the bar to an entirely new level.

Barry embarked on an extraordinary journey from his home in Conakry, Guinea, pedaling his way across the entirety of West Africa and the Sahara Desert’s road network. This incredible 2,500-mile journey spanned five countries, all fueled by the hope of being accepted into an Egyptian university.

His route took him through Benin, southern Mali, Togo, and Chad, as well as some of the most dangerous regions on the planet, including parts of Burkina Faso and Niger. Despite being detained without reason or charge on three separate occasions, Barry’s determination remained unwavering.

In Chad, nearly four months after he set off, his story caught the attention of a local journalist. This led to a local philanthropist stepping in and arranging for Barry’s flight to Cairo, marking a significant turning point in his journey.

Upon reaching Egypt, the prestigious Al-Azhar University not only accepted Barry but also offered him a full scholarship. Initially for Islamic studies, the scholarship was later extended to cover engineering as well.

But the surprises didn’t end there. Hollywood superstar Will Smith learned about Barry’s inspiring journey and decided to give him a surprise congratulatory call. The BBC had reported on Barry’s ride in September, which is how Smith came to know about it. He video-called Barry in Cairo and gifted him a new bicycle and a laptop for his studies.


Barry’s reaction to seeing Smith was priceless. “When I saw him, I was confused in my head, because I had seen that man before,” Barry told the BBC from Cairo. “Then I remember—it’s Will Smith! Wow… I used to watch his films. I was sat on a chair in front of Will Smith!”

Share this cyclist’s incredible journey and just rewards with your friends who could use a dose of inspiration!