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The Digital Platform Taking Dating in the Middle East Back to Basics

May 10, 2023
Photo credit: Shutterstock

While dating apps and websites have brought the world a progressive and digitally-adapted method of finding love, they have also popularised concepts like ghosting, the talking stage, and catfishing. These terms now plague young generations as they navigate the minefield that is modern dating.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing everyone into lockdown, the popularity of online dating grew as people turned to the internet for everything – from groceries, all the way to love. In 2022, over 366 million individuals around the world were registered on dating apps with a percentage of these saying that they preferred it to the traditional format of finding love.

In Egypt, the trend has been catching on over the past few years. However, the negative outlook swaths of Egyptian society have on modern dating continues to cast a shadow of taboo on it.

Online dating, however, comes with its own set of drawbacks. One of these is being catfishing — meaning being deceived by a user with a fake account. Particularly for women, there are safety concerns that come with using these apps, as a higher percentage of women, in comparison to men, state that they do not consider it the safest method to meet someone.

In the region, which follows more conservative societal norms, an added setback is the lack of privacy that comes with signing up to a dating app as there is always the chance of stumbling upon a co-worker or a family member. This brings with it its own complications — particularly for women — as dating is often only acceptable within a certain, often family-sanctioned, framework in the Middle East.

The Circle Editions is the digital platform that is tackling these issues, putting a traditional twist on today’s modern dating habits.

Founded in 2023 by Dubai-based Lebanese native, Jimmy Takieddine, the dating website is looking to change the Arab dating game. While it is a global platform, it is primarily focusing on a clientele from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Having set up over 300 people, the website has a 96 percent success rate so far, which is calculated by the number of people who have gone on second and third dates.

“There’s a very big problem when it comes to meeting new people, especially within the context of dating,” shares Takieddine. “So, people right now are relying on dating apps to meet and find each other, and they do the whole swiping and texting thing. Then they get ghosted [a modern term meaning an unannounced withdrawal of contact]. It’s just a very long process.”

He adds that, “dating apps have made men more insecure and less confident, and the same applies to women. I think dating apps have ruined it [the romance].”

How Does the Website Work?

Looking to eradicate catfishing, the vetting process applied when a user signs up includes a video call set up between a member of The Circle Editions team and the person signing up to verify the identity of the individual. Once the profile is set up, users are asked a series of questions in order for the platform’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) to gain a better understanding of the individual’s personality, and match them accordingly.

Following that, the AI finds the user a match, after which it generates a fun story — based on the information the user fed into the system — to be sent to the match, and vice versa. Once both have agreed or accepted the match, a date including potential locations is suggested based on both their likes.

Screenshot of The Circle Editions’ website

Once the match is approved by the woman, the date suggestions are generated for her to decide when and where she would like to meet her potential suitor, after which a calendar invite is sent out via email. Once the application goes live, there will no longer be a need for a calendar invite by email.

When the date is over, both users are sent a feedback request to rate the date. For the women, there is an added requisite to measure the men’s level of chivalry.

“The girls get another question which is: ‘how much of a gentleman was he?’” explains Takieddine. “We added the gentleman score to encourage men to be more chivalrous. I want the men to have great gentleman scores.”

Falling in Love

Unlike the more widespread format of dating platforms, The Circle Editions skips what is known as the ‘talking stage’ which is the period of virtual conversation that has become part and parcel of modern dating.

Scrolling through Instagram, one can find a plethora of reels poking fun at the tedious process that is the talking stage – where a person spends weeks or months talking to another person with the relationship rarely materialising into anything.

The Circle Editions has users meet directly, rather than chatting on the website – thus setting the stage for a potential connection. The goal is to break the ice by getting the two users to meet for a date tailored to both of them.

“People right now are loving the idea that they’re reading a story about the other person, and then going to meet them,” elaborates Takieddine.

With online dating, organic meet-cutes become obsolete as users go through the long task of sifting through profiles, talking for weeks or months and usually not meeting up in the end. Bred out of a need to give romantics a fighting chance at love, The Circle Editions is about lighting that initial spark through shared ideals, activities, and likes.

photo credit: Shutterstock

“Right now, because it’s manual, we send you one match until you say yes or no. We want you to complete the full cycle if you say yes,” explains Takieddine. “If you say no, we send you another match. Once the app is live, we will send you five matches, and you can decide on the ones you would like to meet.”

Taking into account personality, religious beliefs, and all the factors that are considered important when striking a genuine connection with the right person, the website caters to those looking for a serious relationship. It places a weight on religious and cultural background in a bid to increase the chances of long-term compatibility when searching for the right match.

“So, when you put in your match preferences, say you’re looking for someone who is Muslim,” explains Takieddine. “The system will only match you with that criteria because that’s one of the heavy weights, the rest is more flexible.”

Every single member has an account manager to facilitate the process. However, once the app goes live, AI will take over.

Another one of the platform’s perks is that users get to find their match in a safe environment that takes into consideration privacy. The dating platform is conscious of the social and cultural nuances of the region, as it opts out of the swiping feature, and rather sets up users by assessing compatibility.

After the matches are generated, the woman gets sent the match suggestion first and as such is given the priority of approving. This is to ensure that she does not end up matching with a colleague or someone she does not want knowing that she is on the dating platform. At the moment, the users’ places of work are cross-checked by a person on the team. However, eventually it will be done with the help of AI through LinkedIn.

Takieddine adds that, “the lack of privacy is an important [aspect] because no woman from the Middle East is comfortable being swiped on because she’s afraid that her co-workers are there [on the dating apps], or her cousins, or brothers, or whoever.”

The Circle Editions is a platform that is looking to shift from the casual dating format that is synonymous with online dating to a format that fosters a more genuine dynamic between its users. The founder adds that this is only the first edition of the platform, which will eventually expand to include several other editions for work relations and friendships.

Currently The Circle Editions is a website with the app set to launch in September.

Discover The Circle Editions by visiting their website.

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