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“We're adding this feature so they can send their conversation to one of their family members or one of their friends that they choose.
It's up to them, it's not mandated or anything, and it just gives the app a more conservative side for those who choose.” Harmonica isn’t the first app to provide mobile dating to a more conservative crowd.
Outside of Egypt, a handful of apps already offer a similar service, such as Matchmallows and Salaam Swipe, based in Canada and the UK respectively.
One entrepreneur who predates Saleh is Shahzad Younas, a 33-year-old from Manchester who launched Muzmatch two years ago as a way for young Muslim couples the world over to meet.
Good-looking from a respectable family, and a qualified medical doctor, she should have had no problem finding a fiancé.
Her father has met with around 40 young men over the years who have visited Amira’s family home to discuss marrying her, but so far, nothing has come of it. “I never have enough time to get to know them.” Under her father’s strict rules, she is able to have no more than two meetings with a potential suitor, all in the company of her family, and asked to make a decision shortly after. In Egypt, where life revolves around marriage, premarital sex remains fiercely taboo and the word for an unmarried woman, is a malicious insult – it’s the reason why, for this story, Amira is using a fake name.
“It’s become the biggest struggle in Egypt,” he says.
Younas reckons that his app has paired up 7,000 married couples around the world, including one couple in Uganda; unknown to them, they were the only two in the country to have signed up to it.
But despite their best efforts, entrepreneurs behind these sorts of apps often find opposition from the most pious observers, as Younas has discovered through his experiences with Muzmatch.
Although other dating sites have been targeted at the Middle East – Matchmallow, Love Habibi, and the many Muslim dating sites – it is hard to think of a Tinder equivalent.
Saleh thinks that, with 141 million smartphone users, of whom 72 percent are under 34, the region’s potential has been overlooked.
An economic downturn since the Arab Spring in 2011 has left people fighting to maintain living standards, let alone start a new family.