Marriage applications on the rise

Sarah Elhosary , Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

Marriage matchmakers in Egypt are using innovative apps and live broadcasts to attract those seeking to tie the knot, reports Sarah Elhosary

Marriage matchmakers applications


Surprised by the overwhelming response, Abeer, an Egyptian marriage matchmaker, could not contain her excitement as she watched over 1,000 marriage-seekers swiftly download her app following an announcement on Facebook. 

The transformation of her profession, once reliant on word-of-mouth methods, has now transitioned into the digital age, with connections between marriage-seekers being facilitated by a simple swipe or a click during live broadcasts.

“Things have changed significantly in recent years. Society has become faster in its habits, with people’s jobs taking up most of the day leaving little time for people to attend social gatherings and meet others,” Abeer said.

“Paradoxically, these changes have revived the traditional profession of matchmaker, known in Egypt as the khatba, but this time with the assistance of technology and social media.”

Statistics collected by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) may highlight the difficulties some people face in finding a suitable life partner, leading to an increasing demand for marriage-offer Webpages, applications, and firms.

 According to the Annual Bulletin of Marriage and Divorce Statistics 2021, the number of marriages taking place per hour in Egypt was 100.5 in 2021, compared to 104.2 in 2017, a decrease of 4.2. Moreover, the number of divorces per hour was 29.1 in 2021, compared to 23.7 in 2017, with an average increase of 5.4.

The decline in marriage rates and the increase in divorces have influenced the resurgence of the role of the khatba to facilitate the search for a suitable partner for marriage-seekers. 

The khatba’s role traditionally involved a respectable woman in a residential area visiting homes with children of marriage age, getting their photographs, showing them to prospective spouses, and matching those whose demands aligned. Although the profession has been declining for decades, the use of social media and applications by many matchmakers has led to its resurrection.

“As online dating has become a significant part of the dating world, applications to help find the perfect marriage partner have emerged,” Abeer said.

“After working through my Facebook page since 2016 and reaching one and a half million followers, I was contacted by the team behind the 7ader app, an application that allows the public to connect with celebrities and specialists in various fields, to add my services of matching couples through the app.”

“The idea is that people contact me through the app to explain their requirements for a life partner. I then recommend a potential match from those seeking marriage and meeting their criteria. I always work to find the perfect match, whether from people on my Facebook page, the app, or those who have directly requested my help.”

“The marriage-seekers connect and get to know each other. The demand for the app has been overwhelming since its launch in 2020. It provides privacy, not showing users’ numbers or data, so women in particular prefer it. Men prefer the Facebook page to communicate with more women and follow live sessions where I present marriage offers.”

“The app also offers the advantage of precisely analysing subscriber data and finding compatible matches quickly and easily, suggesting them to the user without the need to sift through hundreds of applicants on the app or requests and comments on Facebook. The ease of use of the Facebook pages makes them preferred by those seeking marriage and having average qualifications or from older age groups. They help users connect with suitable partners compared to the difficulty some may find in using apps,” Abeer said. 

“I also did not stop at the application’s existing functionalities but requested its developers to add a form that marriage-seekers can fill out with their characteristics and the qualities they desire in a partner. The app developers are now working on turning the subscribers’ forms into links that I can share with Facebook followers. If a man, for instance, contacts me through Facebook, and I know of a woman on the app who matches his criteria, I can send him the link to her app profile, and then he can communicate with her through the application,” she said.

The form includes basic information such as age, weight, physical characteristics, educational level, profession, marital status, and the qualities desired in a partner by the form’s owner so that the application can suggest compatible matches. Afterwards, any user can book a call with a compatible match through the app. The two people can then arrange to meet with the family, continue to get to know each other, and exchange telephone numbers, according to their personal preferences.

“Through my Facebook page and app, I have helped many people get married, but very few of them mention that they met through me or other marriage matchmakers. This leads many to think that our work is not popular, but in fact we receive many requests and calls from new participants,” Abeer concluded.


EXPERIENCES: One woman who wished to remain anonymous said that after she had asked a khatba to help her find a suitable match for her daughter, she requested that the khatba attend the wedding and introduce herself to the guests as a friend, concealing her role as a matchmaker. 

The khatba was also asked by the groom’s mother not to mention that she had helped her son and his bride.

“Before my daughters were married, I looked at various marriage-offer pages besides Abeer’s page. I set specifications about the age and education of my daughters and their requirements for a life partner. I included my telephone number with my daughter’s data for potential grooms to contact me and prevent anyone from bothering my daughters directly,” the woman said.

“The mother of my daughter’s groom did the same thing, so we connected and introduced our children to each other. But we have concealed the fact that we met through a khatba from our relatives.”

“I chose this method because my daughters had reached the ages of 35 and 31 as they were very focused on their work, and I wanted to find suitable life partners for them. Despite facing many challenges, and after searching for two years, I found a proper partner from a respectable family for one of my daughters. Unlike what many people may believe about those who seek marriage through a matchmaker being undesirable, many people do not have enough social opportunities to meet a suitable partner.”

“As a result, there is nothing wrong with finding marriage through a matchmaker. It is similar to the arranged marriages our ancestors used to organise to ensure a suitable partner for their children. Now that both my daughters have got married, I am working on finding a suitable husband for my daughter’s friend through the app. However, I always advise a sufficient engagement period so that the couples can get to know each other well,” she added.

Besides working through her app and Facebook page, Abeer also directly matches those seeking marriage, including friends and relatives. “Since I started in 1999 by marrying off my husband’s brothers one at a time, I have been working to match my other acquaintances. The circle has gradually expanded, and more and more marriage-seekers around me are seeking my help.”

“I have developed my way of working to match the preferences of some marriage-seekers. For example, university professors and army officers usually prefer not to appear in the live sessions I host. Instead, I present their qualities and requests and connect them with partners interested in their profiles. Although my life as a mother limits my time for work, I manage to present topics through the live sessions on my Facebook page that have attracted many followers and increased views.” 

“The discussions I have with followers include the marriages of the elderly, people with special needs, and expats who do not have enough time to be in Egypt to meet a suitable partner. These categories have become some of my most dedicated followers. There are also those living in places where most people follow a different religion and wish for a partner of the same faith, such as Muslims living in European countries. They ask me to introduce them to Muslim families.”

“Sometimes, I connect Muslim families from the same town when two families contact me simultaneously seeking partners with compatible qualities,” Abeer explained. 

With the growing number of marriage requests reaching her, Abeer has also formed a general picture of requirements for a life partner, adding that these have changed significantly from the past. 

“Many of my followers are looking for a wife who accepts polygamy. Some women comfortably accept being a second wife due to their social or financial circumstances. I launched hashtags to gauge my followers’ opinions on these requests and received millions of views.”


ENTERING THE PROFESSION: While visiting a khatba to find himself a bride, Khaled Abu Yassin, a wedding photographer at the time, become captivated by the khatba herself and chose to marry her. He now works with her hosting a programme that receives marriage requests online. 

“My wife has been working as a matchmaker since 2008, but when she faced some harassment during a live session about marriage requests, I decided to present the programme instead, calling it the ‘Marriage Programme,’” Abu Yassin said.

“Initially, I faced objections as I was a man working in a profession traditionally associated with women. However, over time people began to appreciate the seriousness of my services and the value of my programme.”

The page has helped many people connect and get married at a time when personal connections have become challenging, he said, and the number of followers has increased from 70 to 564.

In his daily live Facebook sessions, Abu Yassin now spends more than five hours interacting with his followers, discussing their offers and requests for life partners. He begins by asking participants about their age, occupation, marital status, and partner preferences, among other details they might want to know and ask about in their comments.

“I ask the participants about 15 questions, and then the person leaves their telephone number in the live video or the comments if they are men seeking marriage. If a woman joins the live session, those who wish to contact her call me to get her father’s or brother’s number to avoid harassment,” he said.

In addition to the live sessions, Abu Yassin also records short videos detailing the profiles of marriage-seekers who do not want to appear online and pins them to the page until they find a suitable partner.

Integrating the traditional profession of the khatba with technology and social media has enabled various groups to connect, such as the elderly, who now find it less challenging to find partners online. Many couples from different regions have also met thanks to the Internet, forming connections that would have been unlikely otherwise.

According to Abu Yassin, live marriage-programme sessions are a better option than traditional marriage companies for both seekers and facilitators. Marriage companies charge a fee for finding a suitable partner and are obliged to provide that service for the fee paid. In contrast, the programme offers a platform for people to connect and meet without necessarily charging fees from participants or being forced to find suitable partners for them.

There is also the problem that some marriage companies may take money from applicants without providing a suitable service or following up with them. Said Al-Kilani, who found a wife through the “Marriage Programme,” explains that “I applied to many marriage companies and websites and experienced many scams. Some required money transfer to a phone number and then blocked my number to prevent further contact. Others would set up a lunch date and ask for gifts, only to disappear, having no intention of following through with marriage.”

“Unlike marriage companies, the live marriage programmes stand out by offering free services. I appeared live free of charge, shared my qualifications and partner preferences, and later paid a nominal fee to pin a video on the page due to my confidence in it. I became even more reassured by the programme’s seriousness when they required a copy of my ID before pinning my video on the page.”

“Besides my success in finding a partner through the programme, I have also made many friends, and programme followers have become regular friends with whom I interact daily on the page. The live session’s first part runs from 9 to 12 am, presenting marriage requests, and the second part runs from 1 to 4 pm, discussing societal issues related to marriage, such as high costs or unreasonable demands. This period may also include poetry readings or singing by the live participants.”

The platform presenting marriage offers is thus an open forum for discussions among followers about the issues they face when seeking marriage, such as high dowries. 

“The female participants often insist on receiving a shabka [a gold or diamond gift presented by the groom],” Abu Yassin said. “Some require a large dowry, while others insist on living in a house owned by the groom rather than a rented one, among other demands that may be challenging for some marriage-seekers. We bring these topics up for discussion among the page members.”

“We have built an online community for our marriage-seekers and followers so that they can interact and discuss opinions and ideas, and we also realise the value of cultivating offline ties. As a result, we have established an offline community by hosting social events to bring together marriage-seekers as well,” he said.

“We began by organising a celebration for our programme’s second anniversary and invited page members to provide an additional opportunity for social contact. Ten prospective brides and 14 grooms attended the event, which took place on board a boat with no fee except for the boat ticket. We are actively striving to make this a monthly social event.”


OPPORTUNITIES: Hanaa Shaaban, one of the participants who applied for marriage through the programme, says that “these programmes offer an opportunity for women in general, and especially for women over 50, to find a life partner.”

“Religion does not oppose a woman seeking marriage herself, which encouraged me to join the live session looking for marriage. Just because I’ve proposed a marriage doesn’t mean I’m relinquishing my rights and demands. I requested a shabka to a value of LE50,000 and required that the groom owns a place to live.”

“Despite earlier registering with several marriage companies, the khatba there brought me unsuitable matches. So far, I haven’t found the right person because many married men join marriage programmes to find a second wife without informing her of their existing marriage.”

Given some attempts to hide or falsify information by some applicants, matchmaker Abeer suggests several steps for those getting to know each other through her to ensure the reliability of their potential partner before becoming engaged. These include verifying the groom’s workplace and position, the bride’s family paying a visit to the designated marital home before the engagement, and checks on the correctness of the marriage contract.

Abeer also recommends visiting the civil registry with the ID cards of both parties to check their previous marriages and verify that their residences and professions match. It is also essential for both families to meet and get to know each other before the engagement.

“Adhering to these procedures can help prevent attempts at deception that individuals intending to marry may encounter. However, even so couples may be willing to overlook certain falsehoods to finalise the marriage, such as the groom discovering that the bride is a few years older than she had earlier said,” Abeer explained.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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