The Scots accepted me as one of their own

He is normally knee-deep in grass, wading through mud, or following animals in the wild.

But Sudan-born wildlife photographer Hamza Yassin is currently on the other side of the camera, watched by millions with his partner Jowita Przystal on Strictly Come Dancing.

As the nation warms to its newfound talent, a small community hall in a remote Scottish village has become the hot ticket to watch it on a Saturday night.

Friends and neighbors of the 32-year-old from the village of Kilchoan in the Highlands are following him closely.

Hamza has lived in Kilchoan, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula beside the Sound of Mull in Lochaber, for 11 years.

He told BBC Scotland it was there he learned his trade.

Hamza on Let's go for a walk

Hamza on Let’s go for a walk

“I cut my teeth as a wildlife cameraman in Scotland,” he said.

“I had a love of wildlife from my African background. Growing up I always loved animals and wanted to work with them.

“But where I started to work properly, to learn more about the animals and to get close to them so I could take the images that I did, was in Scotland.”

He added: “There are so many habitats for wildlife. For me Scotland is my home, they have accepted me as one of their own and I love it. The west coast is close to my heart .”

Kilchoan

Hamza lives in Kilchoan, the most westerly village in Britain

Hamza moved to the UK when he was eight years old and went on to earn a master’s degree in biological imaging and photography and a bachelor’s degree in zoology with conservation. He later became a published wildlife photographer and tour guide, and is also a qualified bird watcher.

In July this year, Hamza received a Masters Honors Degree from Bangor University, which one of his idols, Sir David Attenborough, has also received in the past.

He worked on The One Show as one of their wildlife cameramen, which led to him landing his own CBeebies show and companion book Let’s Go For A Walk.

He also appears on ITV’s Countryfile and This Morning, and has filmed and presented the Channel 4 shows Scotland: My Life in the Wild and Scotland: Escape to the Wilderness.

Her Kilchoan neighbors take credit for bringing out her inner dancer by involving her in the village ceilidhs.

Hamza said: “I love to dance anyway but I didn’t know how to do it. Three times a year we have ceilidhs for special occasions and that’s where the village people taught me how to dance. I love that.”

He may not be able to incorporate his Scottish country dancing into his Strictly routines, but he wants to include his Scottish culture.

“I would love to include the Gay Gordons or the Dashing White Sergeant, but it can be difficult,” he said. “But I hope to incorporate my kilt. Maybe into a waltz or something a bit slower. It will be amazing to bring out my Scottish side on national TV.”

Jowita and Hamza blew the judges away with their salsa in week four and last week they topped the leaderboard.

And now friends and neighbors of Ardnamurchan dare to dream of welcoming a champion to the Highlands.

Cafe owner Olivia told the BBC: “We’re so proud of him. He’s doing so well and doing a great job flying the Scottish flag.

“The whole community supports it and enjoys it. Every Saturday night we go to our little community hall, set up the projector, everyone comes with homemade pastries, drinks, and we chat, laugh and watch how it goes. away.”

Hamza's neighbors in Scotland

Hamza’s neighbors, (LR) Olivia, Ava, Gail, Logan and Innes

Hamza’s neighbor Gail said: “We average 50-60 people every Saturday night in the hall – almost half the population of the village. It’s nice to get together on the cold summer nights. winter and encourage it.”

She is happy that the country can see the friend they all love.

“He’s such a nice guy and it shows. You can see how humble he is and that’s how he is in real life. And he draws attention to what he cares about the most. at heart – wildlife, conservation and nature history.

“And that’s a big thing here – we’re in one of the most remote areas of Scotland with the most amazing wildlife and that’s what brought it here in the first place.”

Gail added: “He’s a fantastic neighbor and I really miss him because he’s someone I call on a lot to save me from a big spider or a dead mouse or to help me lifting heavy objects.”

Hamza admits her helping with moving things inspired her lifts on the dance floor.

“They call me the traveling village forklift. I love helping people, especially if it’s heavy. But never with humans. Normally I don’t travel to lift people.”

Hamza and Jowita say they’re taking the competition one week – and one dance – at a time.

And although Kilchoan misses its famous resident. they don’t want to see it too soon.

Gail said: “We want him to go to the final and we want him to come back and bring the glitter ball trophy home with him.”

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