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For example, explains Saleh, “During the initial match, users don’t see much,” referring to the first phase of Harmonica’s match-making.
In stark contrast to applications like Tinder – which Saleh likes to call a “meat market” – female users have the option to hide their photos until they’ve approved another user to view them.
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.
Two years ago, 29-year-old Sameh Saleh, a technology entrepreneur from Cairo, realised that a close relative of his, Amira, was suffering.
Hot on the heels of global dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, Saleh is trying to bring the idea of phone-based relationships to a more conservative crowd.“We would use and we would use Uber,” says Saleh, referring to other popular mobile apps, “but some startups cannot penetrate the market without understanding the social aspect.” In his opinion, dating apps have struggled to shake their image in the Middle East as “hook-up apps.” In a country where Saleh says “20 or 30 percent of guys in university have never even spoken to a girl in that way before,” he believes a serious rethink is in order to make mobile dating work here.The idea behind Harmonica is to approach dating in line with local cultural norms.An economic downturn since the Arab Spring in 2011 has left people fighting to maintain living standards, let alone start a new family.After seeing what this was doing to his loved ones, Saleh decided in 2015 that he would find a way to help.
The family will be involved from day one.” In an attempt to replicate this, he’s employed a small team of dating counsellors, on call to give advice to their premium customers every step of the way.