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Delving Deeper into Cairo’s Online Dating Culture

Delving Deeper into Cairo’s Online Dating Culture

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Swiping left or right has come to mean so much more than a mere movement on one’s phone. This simple, swift movement has now become associated with having a wide array of potential ‘partners’ that one can decide whether or not they are interested in by a seemingly quick 10-second glance. 

While technically the first online dating experience was created in the early 1990s with the website match.com, online dating has grown more and more popular when mobile applications (apps) such as Tinder and Bumble first came out in the early 2010s. 

These applications make the experience easy, simple and accessible to everyone with the simple premise of seeing an array of possible ‘matches’ and swiping right if one is interested or left if they are not. These ‘matches’ appear in the form of a main picture with the person’s name and age, should one choose to further explore whether or not they would be interested in the person, they can flick through some more of their pictures and read some of the information they may have provided, before deciding to swipe left or right. 

The West Vs. The East

While these dating apps are certainly popular in most western countries, they have also gained popularity in the MENA region, albeit in a slightly more ‘low-key’ manner. Seeing as how Egypt is a more conservative and traditional country, there is still a great deal of stigma associated with using online dating apps. This especially comes as a result of these apps’ association with ‘hook-up culture’ which is not something that is widely present or accepted in Egypt, at least not openly so.  

That being said, there are those, of course, who use these apps in hopes of finding a potential life partner. With the world shifting more online everyday, as has been the case during the recent months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is perhaps becoming harder to meet people in everyday life and it only makes sense to turn to social media to fulfill one’s desire for a partner.

An example of swiping left or right on Tinder. Image via Quartz.

In fact, according to Business Insider, Match Group, the main entity that owns and operates more than 45 dating brands, including Tinder, Hinge, and OKCupid, revealed in its second quarter 2020 earnings report that more people have been using online dating apps since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lot of the world’s most popular dating apps are used in Egypt, with Tinder and Bumble being the most well known and widely used. And while there are no clear statistics to indicate the increase in users in Egypt or their demographic data, something that is clear to anyone who uses these apps is the larger ratio of men to women among users in the country.   

Women’s Online Dating Experience Vs Men’s 

“Online dating in Egypt is hard. My experience with Egyptian women in general is that they are more reserved and irresponsive to direct shows of interest, let alone online—leaving the other person on read, not responding quite often, etc.,” says 26-year-old Fady. “In other countries, I noticed the friendliness and openness which makes the process easier and whatever the outcome is, I am glad I got to know the other person.”

In a country where it is usually more okay for men to express or explore their sexuality and women are shamed for exercising the same rights, female users tend to be slightly more ‘secretive’ about venturing into the online dating world. Generally speaking, while the experience is often different for men and women all over the world, it is evidently more so the case in Egypt. 

“At first I tried [online dating] because I was curious about how it works, but then it turned into exploring more options and meeting new people that I wouldn’t usually meet in everyday life,” says 33-year-old Ereny. She goes on to say that while she was secretive about using these applications at first, she is now more open about it due to their ubiquitous use among people in her social circles.

“I like the idea, honestly, because of the ‘meeting new people’ part and the fact that it expands options and potential, but I also feel like it ruined the concept of classic, old school dating,” she tells Egyptian Streets. “Everything in the online dating world is fast and accessible [and] the dating process itself goes really fast.” 

Image via Pew Research Center.

“I actually started online dating because all of my friends were doing it,” says 32-year-old Cherine. “It mostly started out as a joke, but then I seriously started to use it as time passed—the first year I would swipe, but I was too intimidated to actually meet anyone.” 

Cherine goes on to say that she had changed her mind about using the app seriously as a result of not having successfully met anyone in her everyday life for a while. While her experience has been both good and bad, she explains that she had stopped using Tinder because most of the men she matched with ended up harassing her or being “creepy.” She then switched to Bumble, which is still relatively new to the Egyptian market. 

Generally speaking, Bumble users have said that their experience on the app in Egypt has been all-round better than Tinder. “Tinder has become somewhat different… one will find profiles such as ‘Tooti Sanoosi’ and ‘Aya’ who has a picture with her husband and kids up, and someone else who has a picture of a religious scripture that says we shouldn’t be doing this,” explains 32-year-old Ramy*. “It is like a mix of people who have an identity crisis… Bumble at first was great because it was still very niche and known to a certain type of demographic.”

He goes on to say that he had initially started online dating in an attempt to get over a break-up. He has had both good and bad experiences with the apps ever since, although he believes that they are purely ‘animalistic’ above anything else because the algorithm is initially based on physical attraction. 

“I have done my fair share of swiping, and I have sat with both male and female friends as they were swiping as well, and it is clear that [women] always have the upper hand in ‘choosing’ a potential match, which is also true in real life to a certain extent,” he tells Egyptian Streets.

In any case, it seems to be somewhat of a theme that people in Egypt tend to be discrete about using these apps at first. The young man goes on to say that he was initially secretive about using them and that he would have their notifications turned off, although he recalls one time when he had forgotten to do so.

“I was sitting with a friend of mine and the Tinder notification went off, and because it has a specific type of ‘sound’ to it, [my friend] recognized it and said ‘Tinder’s on fire, bro’,” he explains.  

“That was when I realized that everyone uses it, but no one really says that they use it,” Ramy* continues. Other than the discreteness of it all, it seems as though women also prefer Bumble in Egypt due to the fact that they are the ones in control of whether or not they choose to start a conversation with someone they matched with. 

“The thing is, I would rather meet someone organically,” Cherine explains. “But as one grows older, one realizes that this option is not always available in this day and age—I haven’t lost hope of that happening, but until it does, I just figured why not try online dating as well.” 

Egypt’s Online Dating World in a Nutshell

Seeing as how most Egyptian are raised to follow the traditional life trajectory of graduating college, finding a job and getting married, the majority of people, even today’s modern and progressive youth, acknowledge that they are ultimately seeking a life partner. 

That being said, online dating applications in Egypt could potentially be making it both easier and more difficult to find a life partner. While there are certainly exceptions to this—generally speaking, it seems as though most men agree that although it is more difficult for them to find good matches, they are generally more open to casual dating and ‘hook-ups’ through these apps. Women, on the other hand, generally agree that it is more difficult for them to find ‘quality matches’ or individuals who are not just looking to hook up and move on to the next match. 

One thing that is clear though: these dating apps have certainly gained popularity and more people use them than otherwise perceived—be it for the purpose of finding a life partner, temporarily fulfilling certain emotional or physical needs, or simply just ‘meeting new people’, today’s Egyptian bachelors and bachelorettes are becoming more and more open about exploring potential relationships in the digital realm. 

*Name has been changed upon source’s request.  

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