Finding love in a pandemic: Muslim matchmaking app Hawaya expands to the UAE

The online platform has several features specifically designed with Muslim users in mind

Hawaya is an app created in Egypt that fuses matchmaking with a respect for local traditions and cultures. Unsplash
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The coronavirus pandemic may have changed many aspects of life as we know it, but it certainly hasn't changed people's urge to make real human connections. And with many people around the world staying at home, it comes as no surprise that digital platforms that help us connect are seeing a healthy boom.

Most recently, Hawaya, a matchmaking app founded in Cairo, has expanded to the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, following its success in Egypt.

The platform aims to help users find love while respecting cultures and traditions, providing a "solution for young, modern and confident Muslim adults who want to take the search for a life partner into their own hands".

Hawaya co-founders Sameh Saleh, Tamer Saleh, Shaymaa Ali, Ali Khaled. Courtesy of Hawaya 
Hawaya co-founders Sameh Saleh, Tamer Saleh, Shaymaa Ali, Ali Khaled. Courtesy of Hawaya 

The app, which is free and available to download on Apple and Android devices, recorded a 40 per cent increase in messages exchanged between users during March, according to its co-founder and chief executive Sameh Saleh. There has also been a 25 per cent increase in time spent on the app and 50 per cent increase in use of the exclusive chat mode, which enables users to temporarily communicate exclusively with each other.

“Individuals are feeling an increased need for connection as face-to-face time with friends and strangers is limited,” says Saleh. “This is a good time for people to discover new ways of engaging with others, and the app offers a platform to do just that.”

Saleh got the idea for Hawaya in 2017, following his own family’s experience of looking for a husband for his sister.

“She had to go through many meetings at home or at a cafe with someone she didn’t know and only had a few hours to ask him important questions to decide if he was the one to live with for the rest of her life,” he explains.

After coming up with the idea of a matchmaking app to help the younger generation connect, Saleh approached friends Shaymaa Ali, Aly Khaled and older brother Tamer Saleh to launch a platform that caters specifically towards Muslims.

Since its inception, Hawaya, which initially began as Harmonica, has grown from strength to strength, and has also expanded to Turkey and Indonesia.

Saleh credits this success to its team of young founders who understand their users wants and needs based on their own experiences.

“Hawaya uses a scientific, safe and culturally accepted approach, and was founded keeping in mind sisters, cousins and friends, as well as the founders’ collective personal experiences with matchmaking,” he says. “No other brand understands the experiences and emotions of single Muslims like we do, because all of the founders came from the same Islamic culture and lived the struggle of finding the right life partner.”

When it comes to matchmaking apps, safety and security is key. Hawaya has included such features keeping in mind its audience. This includes blurred profile pictures (women have the option of initially displaying profile pictures out of focus), a guardian feature (a trusted friend or family member can be involved in the communication while getting to know the match) and selfie verification.

It also offers complete confidentiality and ongoing support to help matched couples build a "lifetime journey".

“In the Arab world, most youth are familiar with the love story of the famous writer Mai Ziyada and the poet Khalil Gibran, which extended for years across different countries through only written correspondence," says Saleh. "This love story is very similar to the ecosystem of support that we want to create, providing people with a sense of companionship and the possibility of finding lifelong true love."