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What Happened When I Tried an Arab Dating App

Urgh, swiping right

Being a young single Arab means you’re constantly put under pressure by society and relatives nosing around your marital status. Big family occasions are a real pain in the ass if you’re single – people constantly ask why it’s taken you so long to get married, and hit you with the famous “time is ticking” phrase that reminds us of our age and impending future as a lonely spinster.

In 2018, meeting that special someone isn’t that easy – if you go out, everyone’s sat on their phones swiping on IG anyway so it’s no surprise that dating apps have penetrated the Arab world to help us introverts and socially awkward folks to meet someone.

I decided to give it a go. There are endless options: Et3arraf, Hayat and Soudfa – to name a few. As conservative as the Arab society can be, digital dating doesn’t seem like a taboo. However, unlike Tinder and Bumble, these apps look a bit different. They show happy families, promise weddings and long-term commitments rather than one night stands and late night hook-ups.

To be honest, I’ve tried other dating apps (only a few times)… ok maybe more than that, but only when I was abroad and it was just for fun, but this time I took it seriously (for research purposes, of course).

I created a profile, and prayed I wouldn’t fall prey to an undercover ISIS member. The great thing about these apps is that they’re so customizable and you can get really specific about what and who you are looking for, from age preference to religion.

50 minutes of scrolling down the main page later, I started stalking some profiles and the number of men promising fidelity and long, loving marriages took me by surprise. It’s kinda crazy how that’s the go-to chat-up line in the Arab world. Being single is as stressful for men as it is for women – men are pressured to succeed and to build a household by the time they’re deemed ‘men’, so sometimes it’s not even about finding the best match but rather about finding someone who fulfills the societal requirements. In fact, maybe it’s one of the reasons these dating apps are so popular; the process is easy, there’s no need to go through breakups. If it works it’s cool, if not, all you have to do is to ghost her/him and move on the next one. No muss, no fuss! Which makes meeting someone through mutual friends seem like something you’d do in the stone age.

In a matter of minutes I had about 86 unopened messages. I (kind of harshly) filtered the profiles I liked according to their physiques, which immediately reduced the selection to a mere three profiles. One guy was from Egypt, another one from Lebanon and the third one from Iraq. Intellectually, I could have hoped for better, but other than that, it was nice talking to strangers who wanted to know more about me and have some chill text conversations – dating apps are perfect for couch potatoes. Put on Netflix, cook some dinner and chat idly with a total stranger who wants to know everything about you. But the truth is, after all that scrolling, I couldn’t help but wonder how serious these people really were.

Dating apps could actually work but only if you’re patient enough to sit through all the small talk and repetitive questions. Not to mention, the majority of the Arab dating apps have such a broad outreach that the reality of me getting off my ass in Tunisia and heading to Iraq or Lebanon (after talking to someone on app for a few weeks) is pretty much never going to happen.

If we could get a dating app with a narrower search engine then maybe I’d use it again. But for now, I recommend getting out the house and meeting some three-dimensional people IRL instead.

Photos by @sandinthecitydubai

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