Mamadou Safayou Barry set off from Guinea for Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar in May, hoping he would be accepted. The 25-year-old cycled for four months through countries wracked by Islamist militants and coups. He told the BBC he was “very, very” happy to have been given a scholarship when he finally reached Cairo. The married father of one said although he could not afford the Islamic Studies course at Al-Azhar, or flights to Egypt, the university’s reputation spurred him to take his chances on the epic trek through Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger and Chad. Al-Azhar is one of the most influential centres for Sunni Islamic learning in the world. It’s also one of the oldest, having been founded in the year AD670.