Hamza Yassin: Who is the Strictly Come Dancing star, where does he live and what are his links to Scotland?

With the dancers set to perform in Blackpool this week, an unlikely competitor is now leading the race for the Glitterball Trophy.

At the start of this year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing, the focus was on the likes of presenter Helen Skelton, singer Fleur East or actor Will Mellor being likely winners.

But with two straight scores of 38 in the past two weeks (first and second on the leaderboard) the less familiar name of Hamza Yassin has poved to be popular with the four judges and the general public alike – and is now the bookies favourite.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the dancing star – and his links to Scotland.

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Who is Hamza Yassin?

Hamza Ahmed Yassin was born in Sudan on February 22, 1990, and moved to Britain at the age of eight unable to English.

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Despite being disgnosed with dyslexia, he proved to be a fast learner and won a place at Bangor University where he graduated with a degree in Zoology with Conservation, later being awarded an Honorary Masters. He then studied for a Masters in Biological Photography and Imaging at the University of Nottingham, before embarking on a career as a wildlife cameraman and television presenter.

What television shows has he appeared in?

Hamza Yassin is now the favourite to lift this year's Strictly Come Dancing trophy.

Prior to his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, Hamza was probably best known for the CBeebies shows ‘Let's Go for a Walk’, where he played the role of ‘Ranger Hamza’.

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In 2020, he presented a documentary about his life for Channel 4 entitles ‘Scotland: My Life in the Wild’, and has also appeared on the BBC’s The One Show and as a guest presenter on Countryfile.

In 2021 he joined the BBC series Animal Park about Longleat Safari Park and presented ‘Scotland: Escape to the Wilderness’ where he introduced celebrities Martin Clunes, Baroness Warsi, Ben Miller and Richard Coles to the local wildlife of Scotland.

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What are his links to Scotland and where does he live?

At the age of 21 Hamza moved to the Scottish Highlands to study the local wildlife and develop his career – and he had lived there ever since.

He originally fell in love with the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula – and the equally-remote village of Kilchoan he calls home – after going on holiday with a friend from university.

At first he slept in his estate car, before making friends with the locals and living in empty holiday homes until he could buy his own house.

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Speaking to the Guardian he spoke about his life in Scotland and “going up on the hills, going down the rivers, the glens, trying to photograph everything. Eagles, otters, pine martens, red deer, stags: anything that moved was fair game for me if I can make a story or an image out of it”, while also getting to know the villagers, explaining: “I was doing everything: cutting grass, chopping logs, helping people move stuff. Just any bit of pocket money to keep the petrol tank filled up and food in my belly.”

What has he said about joining Strictly Come Dancing?

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Explaining his decision to go on the show, Hamza said: “I really wanted to take part because, anywhere you go in the UK, everybody knows about it and loves it. Also, because I am severely dyslexic, I really want to take this opportunity to show kids who are dyslexic that it’s not a hindrance, it’s a gift.

“And, finally, I love dancing, and I’m going to get the chance to be paired with a professional dancer and to learn some amazing routines. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, of course, I had to say yes!”

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