They were meeting potential husbands through family connections but often they would have to decide whether to marry them after a one-hour meeting. A cousin, Saleh says, went through 10 years of this without finding anyone to settle down with. Saleh, 32, wanted to find a better matchmaking method. So he and three other entrepreneurs came up with Harmonica, a dating app he says meets the specific needs of Arab users — and gives people more than an hour to decide their future. Online dating is an emerging business in Egypt, where arranged marriages are common and meeting a potential life partner without family input is discouraged in mainstream culture.
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The truth: they met after both swiping right on a dating app. She requested anonymity because of the stigma against dating and sex outside of marriage in socially conservative Egypt. For the far fewer Egyptian women than men on these sites, however, secrecy is also part of the game: Most women interviewed requested anonymity because they feared for their reputations if family, friends, or colleagues knew they dated or met partners online. And while in Egypt Tinder profiles advertising shirtless men with cars, police and military officers, and older men with rings on their fingers are standard, cases of swipes to the right turning to marriage remain rare.