Crazy, Colorful Cairo
Borden Dives Into City Ministry
This is the 9th in a series on the life of William Borden, the millionaire missionary who died in Cairo, en route to China's Gansu Province, adapted from his biography (BordenofYale.com) which I helped edit for republication (Aneko Press, Jan 1, 2024).
Borden did not have the time to write about the fascination of the street life in Cairo, with all its movement and color. As Dr. Babcock put it so vividly:
Old Cairo is a bazaar, its narrow lanes overhung with cornice that almost touch; with awnings of rugs, balconies, and grated windows through which secluded eyes peep; booths, like mere vestibules, with no windows or doors, and their owners sitting, Turk-fashion, smoking, haggling, finally demanding your “last price,” and following you often far along the way; with camels, donkeys, dogs, water-sellers with their clanging brass cups, and vendors of everything with cries to match, whips cracking like torpedoes; with Nubians, Abyssinians, Greeks, Copts, Arabs, veiled women in black-silk balloons and high-heeled slippers, fellahin women with no veils but with tattooed skin and with babies on their backs, rug men and scarab-sellers, jewelers and brass-workers dragging you into their dens, and beggars, cripples, and children crying “Baksheesh.” Oh, the streets of Cairo! The Mouski Bazaar no one who has seen can ever forget.
Every phase of missionary work in this cosmopolitan city interested Borden, and his sympathy and eagerness to learn were winning many friends.
At the YMCA he was in touch with young men of various nationalities, whom he joined in sports as well as meetings. “He was a splendid young man, so healthy mentally, morally, and spiritually,” wrote a Syrian friend with whom he was reading French.
He was finding ways, too, in which he could wisely give financial help.
For example, he laid himself out to encourage the Egyptian Student Movement. It was a gift of his that made possible the obtaining of much better quarters, including a room set apart for Bible study.
“It is for this Bible-room that they are asking for a picture of Mr. Borden,” one of their missionary friends wrote a little later. “They say that he was such a help to them, and his blessing is still with them in their work.”