Skip to main content

Records of YMCA international work in Egypt

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-22


Includes correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, property records, maps, development plans, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles, and other records of the International YMCA movement in Egypt. Much of the correspondence involves YMCA secretaries and employees William Jessop, Wilbert B. Smith, James Q. Quay, Rudolf P. Wiens, Roushdy Melek, Fares Sarofeem, Frank V. Slack, Paul B. Anderson, Dalton F. McClelland, and John C. Barber. Early correspondence and reports involve discussion of the immorality of the Egyptian environment and the importance of supplying a moral oasis for English and American men. A large portion of the later documents consist of discussion about the trials involved with working with the newly formed, post-British occupation, Egyptian government and the laws in place for businesses with central locations based outside of Egypt. Frequent topics of the correspondence include difficulties with and the importance of learning Arabic, the changing social and political climates and how these factors affected the YMCAs goals and role within each individual community in Egypt. In this collection are many financial documents and letters referring to the Great Depression and how this financial situation affected the situation in the Egyptian YMCA. Also included in YMCA Egypt files is legal documentation regarding the purchase, sale and rental of property throughout various locations of YMCAs in Cairo, Alexandria, Assiut as well as other prominent locations of YMCAs in Egypt.


  • 1902-1988
  • Majority of material found within ( 1902-1978)


Language of Materials

The majority of the collection appears to be in English; some material is in Arabic.

Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


American YMCA members' visits to Egypt began in the early 1890s. Luther De Loraine Wishard, during his world tour, visited Egypt. He held meetings in Cairo and at the college maintained by the United Presbyterians of North America in Assiut. John R. Mott also came repeatedly beginning in 1895 on his mission for the World's Student Christian Federation. He organized a student association in the United Presbyterian college at Assiut in 1896. In 1893-94 an attempt to organize a YMCA in Cairo had been made, but it did not last longer than a year. Early in 1909 a YMCA was effectively launched, but this Association, created through local initiative, was restricted to British and American membership. The following year, in 1910, an Arabic-speaking branch was organized, largely by the British YMCA and the Church Missionary Society. The membership of this branch was primarily Coptic and Syrian Christians. The English national council did not have the means to support the Egyptian Association and in 1913, the American YMCA's International Committee began to assist. It brought in Cairo, Egypt's first resident secretary, William Mort Jessop.

Jessop was not in Egypt for long before the country became involved in World War I. Due to the British occupation Egypt sided with the Allies. Jessop worked devotedly with British troops, dedicating much of his time attempting to distract these troops from the temptations of the cities. He aspired to branch into different areas of Egypt, eventually creating an Army Branch in Alexandria for men on active service. Programs and services that he began in Egypt included communion services on Sundays, bible classes, cricket, football, tennis, and a rifle range. He also started lectures, Arabic and French classes, debate groups, a photography studio, socials and concerts, all for British or American men only. He served in Egypt until 1921 when it was decided that a change in management of the Egypt YMCA business affairs should be made. Wilbert B. Smith was brought in to handle this change in management, becoming the Senior Secretary of the YMCA in Egypt.

Drawing on his extensive experience in India, Smith quickly organized the Egyptian YMCA, including all of the men and funds coming from the English National Committee, under one North American senior secretary. While each city in Egypt had its own general committee, a central office coordinated certain aspects of the organization. Smith stressed the importance of inclusion in YMCA work and from the beginning pressed for the recruitment and training of Egyptian secretaries. He also extended his operations to Alexandria, feeling that both Cairo and Alexandria should have permanent associations in place. In Cairo he inspired the International Committee to purchase and renovate the former palace of an Egyptian Prime Minister for YMCA use. In Alexandria he opened the Anglo-American branch in 1921 and an Egyptian Branch with Muslim and Christian members in 1923. The Central Branch in Cairo also opened in 1923. Within 3 months it could report a membership of 320 Muslims, Christians and Jews.

When the YMCA began in Egypt, the country was under British control. British occupation began in 1882 and continued on until 1936. In 1921 Egypt was officially declared independent but certain functions were reserved to Britain. In 1922 a constitution was devised and nationalist sentiment grew. The nation highly identified itself with Islam and strove to make any Christian enterprise from abroad recognize this fact and adjust to it. Laws were put in place that ensured that all paperwork and documentation be written in Arabic and that a certain percent of jobs in the organization be filled by Egyptian citizens. Study of the Arabic language became a major concern for the secretaries of the YMCA in Egypt.

In the early 1930s the effects of the depression in the United States began to make themselves felt in Egypt. The Cairo Central Association gave much attention to finding work for members that were unemployed and undertook no further expansion during this time. Development was stunted in Assiut due to the delay in obtaining funds from America. Despite these difficulties the Assiut Association succeeded in raising its local budget, supporting its Egyptian Secretary and completing and dedicating its building by 1932.

Nationalist feelings continued to grow during the mid- to late-1930s, and the use of Egypt by British troops as a base for Allied operations during World War II exacerbated Egyptian discontent. In 1952 the "free officers" overthrew King Farouk, initiating the Egyptian Rebellion. Expecting immediate reforms, the workers started riots in Kafr Dawar. The existing Egyptian government then drafted a constitution and declared Egypt a republic in 1953. During this time of chaos and unrest the YMCA focused on community and leadership activities, and thus avoided being seen by the Egyptian government as a threat to the newly formed system of Arab Socialism within the country.

In 1959 the YMCA in Egypt began again to grow and develop. Several new building projects came into being during this time including, Mina and Abu Kurkas, Quesna, Port Said, Luxor, Shoubra El Kheima and Tema. The services available in each of these individual YMCAs varied depending on the needs of the communities. By 1976 Associations had formed in as many as 12 other cities and provincial towns along the Nile River. These YMCAs focused on youth work, day care programs, helping children of working mothers, medical services, inner-city work, vocational training, citizenship education, and physical education. Since 1967 leadership had been entirely in Egyptian hands and women were able to increasingly fill these leadership roles. The U.S. International Division provided a continuing liaison relationship with the Egyptian YMCA leaders.

As of 2012 the YMCA in Egypt was running strong with the Alexandria YMCA as the largest branch. At this time there were 18 branches throughout the country. Though these branches focused on working with the young people and the women of the country they also offered many different services to the diverse population of Egypt.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Egypt along with their dates of service:

Atwell, Donald Bliss (1921-1934) Jessop, WIlliam Mort (1913-1921)
Barber, John Clarke (1955-1960) Long, John Franklin (1959-1963)
Boyd, Alden W. (1929-1934) MacQueen, James McGill (1922-1925)
Brown, R. Gerald (1976-1979) Malcolm, John Baden (1929-1932)
Burns, Robert Wayne (1926-1929) Martin, Randolph (1978-1980)
Creighton, David Coleridge (1943-1945) Oliver, Jay Charles (1951-1952)
Denison, W. Harold (1949-1950) Quay, James King (1928-1948)
Dinsmore, Lee F. (1943-1945) Smith, Wilbert Barnes (1920-1932, 1934-1945)
Gallagher, Quentin Pershing (1953-1957) Tamblyn, Gerald Matthews (1922-1929)
Holcombe, Clinton Steele (1922-1932) Torrence, Edgar Clifton (1963-1967)
Hume, Wilson McClaughry (1952-1956) Ward, William Earl Dodge (1932)
Hutchinson, Frank Louis (1944-1947) Wiens, Rudolf Peter (1946-1952)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted from World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, (New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth Scott Latourette, from the collection and from the YMCA of Alexandria Egypt web site ( by Ossama Alber and YMCA Alexandria, 2012.


5.4 Cubic Feet (16 boxes)


Includes correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, property records, maps, development plans, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles, and other records of the International YMCA movement in Egypt.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Biographical information on many of the secretaries involved YMCA work in Egypt (see list of individuals in the historical note) is available in the YMCA Biographical Files, separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP008. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6324206

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • June 2022: Revised to include file level description of Box 7
  • February 2023: Revised to include file level description of Box 1

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area