Cyber relationships are nothing new to Egyptians. Gone are the days when the only matchmaker was a mother or aunt.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Egyptians used AOL, MSN, and Facebook chats to pursue dating. In today’s Egypt, online dating primarily takes place through mobile applications such as Tinder, Bumble, and MuzzMatch, which allow individuals to look for potential love interests by swiping through profiles: right if they like what they see, or left if they don’t.
When Tinder arrived on the scene in 2012, it created Egypt’s first true ‘online dating app’ community. Today, however, a 10-minute swipe spree into the application makes it evident that, in Egypt’s case, the application is a cesspool of fake accounts and crude images.
Tinder itself is not the issue. Egyptian online dating culture, as a whole, is often stigmatized for violating traditional matchmaking norms which rely on trusted adults and families helping younger generations in their quest for marriage. As a result, Tinder has become misconstrued as an application for sexual gratification, despite some of its users seeking genuine connections.
“This is one of the biggest issues in Egypt, whether it is online or offline, which is that guys often like to take things fast-paced in a sexual sense, and I just wanted to get to know the person, that’s all,” says Menna Hussein*, a 26-year-old customer care agent.
Hussein later explains that Tinder’s user base is increasing in inappropriate users or fake accounts – accounts with no authentic description or photos – causing her to delete the app.
While Tinder may have reserved a debatable reputation over the years, casting doubt as to whether online dating may persevere in the country or not, the rise of more applications proves that it has only begun gaining real traction. Users looking for more than hookups are now migrating from Tinder to Bumble: a dating app sensation helping preserve the country’s online dating culture.
NAVIGATING EGYPT’S BUMBLE JUNGLE
Bumble is famous for only allowing women to be the ones to make the first move by messaging first. If a woman does not send a text within 24 hours of making a match, the match and chat disappear. If a woman messages but the man does not reply in 24 hours, then the chat also disappears; this thus compels partners to conversate.
Unlike Tinder, which is very limited in presenting personalities, Bumble allows users to describe themselves in as much detail as possible. Besides the standard name, age, occupation, and photo displays, there is a wide array of traits you can select from and showcase to potential matches.
“I was in the online dating community for two years, initially Tinder for a year and a half, and then onto Bumble, and I have not looked back since,” remarks Salma Mostafa, a 24-year-old MA student.
The bumblebee-yellow-themed application has developed a candid culture that fits the needs of Egyptians steering away from Tinder’s hookup culture.
“More people take Bumble seriously [than Tinder] and are willing to somewhat make connections,” says Omar Haytham, a 22-year-old management student at the German University in Cairo.
Certain users, like Mostafa, are satisfied enough with the process of meeting new people and engaging in meaningful conversations.
“One date was quite serious, actually. He’s actually a super nice and considerate guy, and we were really compatible – but he wanted something serious, and I kind of freaked out. I turned him down because I wasn’t ready, but if the situation [in my life] was different I think I would have loved to,” she adds.
Despite the higher chance of rewarding conversations on Bumble, not every match is fruitful.
Bumble records that 25 percent of all matches surpass the talking stage and go out on a date, yet very few transcend to a proper relationship.
“I have matched but never hung out. The conversation dies out of loss of interest most of the time. You can find a person with the same humor to hit it off with but I really do think those who enter online dating don’t know what they want,” Haytham explains.
Still, this is an improvement on Tinder’s romantic output beyond texts. One study indicates that most Tinder users only go on one date throughout the entirety of their experience on the app.
Mostafa, who is yet to take a Bumble match beyond the realm of chats, believes she could in the future.
“So far I haven’t crossed the talking stage with anyone on Bumble yet, but I am seriously open to the idea of potentially meeting someone eventually – an idea I was never open to on Tinder,” Mostafa confesses.
FLAWS THAT NEED FIXING: A FAULT OF CULTURE OR ONLINE DATING?
There is also the question of predators on online dating applications, both Tinder and Bumble. Mostafa guesses that “the good guys to bad guys ratio on Tinder is 1 to 60, on Bumble it’s 1 to 5,” but horror stories continue to exist, primarily for women.
In Hussein’s case, her horror story occurred when a man she matched with requested a voice message; the request swiftly spiraled, and she found herself in a forced to sexualize conversation she did not want to engage with.
“He asked me to send a voice note so he could hear me speak, and I politely declined, saying there’s no need because I have nothing to say that I can’t say through text. It quickly derailed to him sending me a sexual script for me to supposedly read out to him,” she recollects.
Mostafa acknowledges the unfortunate fact that predators exist, but chooses to embrace the positives of the Bumble experience.
“Some guys put inappropriate pictures on their profile, which is a silver lining because you can just immediately just swipe left. It’s the subtle creeps that you have to watch out for,” she explains.
Despite the unfortunate interactions many users (particularly women) face, some continue to believe in the potential online dating apps like Bumble have for single Egyptians.
“The older you get the more limited your opportunities become in my opinion. Online dating gives you that chance to discover different people minus the hassle of entering new social scenes,” Mostafa admits.
The Egyptian dating culture of today is slowly but surely exploring the possibility of finding love through their phones. The country’s romance is diversifying from its traditional route of matching now that many are realizing that not every person aims for a life partner immediately – some seek someone to talk to on an emotionally intimate level, some hope to have fun with a like-minded person, while some hope to simply meet new people.
“I want a genuine connection, I want something sincere with someone that matches my personality, and I truly do believe most of us here [in Bumble] want to feel the same,” Hussein explains.
Younger generations are seeking intimate connections through dating applications, as the world continues to digitalize, hoping their texts and profile bios reach the right person. Like any dating app, Bumble comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Not every match is perfect; most won’t be. Yet the idea of meeting someone interesting, someone potentially special, motivates most enough to hop on this new era of dating.
*Names have been changed for safety reasons.