It’s no secret or surprise that online dating has become the new norm in our increasingly technology-saturated world. However, it’s not often that you come across a dating website that is as serious about finding its users life partners as the Arab website Et3arraf.
The all-Arabic website, which is tailored to a predominately Saudi user-base, is strictly for the purpose of finding a spouse and specifically, the right spouse. It’s not really a dating website as much as it is matrimonial matchmaking service, which much like the non-virtual Saudi experience, is bound by cultural boundaries.
Et3arraf is, as it describes itself, the electronic “khattaba,” (a term that refers to the traditional role of a woman who helps young men and women find the right spouse in return for money)
To bring her matchmaking powers to the internet age, the website uses smart algorithms and personality tests that incorporate social and cultural qualities. They’re designed by culturally-aware engineering and psychology experts to find each user their perfect match based on the data collected.
As the electronic khattaba, the site charges only the male users for the service, allows only the male users to initiate communication and provides culture-sensitive privacy features including using anonymous profiles, blurring profile pictures until a user is ready for their match to see them and restricting messaging to matches only.
To top it all off, it sends wedding gifts to users who get married after using the service, and the process seems to work. Et3arraf currently has the number of users who got married after using it listed on its website’s counter as more than 1,300 users.
The startup behind the website was co-founded by Lebanese entrepreneur Cedric Maalouf and Lebanese computer engineer Rakan Nimer in 2012. It was initially an Arab dating website for the whole region.
Et3arraf was developed during an acceleration program by Lebanese startup accelerator Seeqnce and then it officially launched on Valentine’s Day 2013. Despite limited marketing funds in its early stages, the site’s user-base quickly expanded beyond expectations.
The success and the co-founders’ insight into the potential of this market attracted the attention of a variety of local and international investors in the following months. This led to the startup changing its marketing strategy in early 2015, choosing to exclusively target Saudi Arabia, where the majority of their users were based.
Although several other dating and/or marriage websites have emerged in the region since Et3arraf was founded, it remains unique for its committed understanding of the cultural context of the society it targets.
Fittingly, Et3arraf is adding to its mix what will make its electronic khattaba status complete, the prospective in-laws. The website is soon introducing a feature titled “For the Family of the Singles,” which will allow the family of the user to submit information about them so that the matching process can factor in their approval as well.