’ This is the kind of question you cannot ask of an Arabic audience,” insists Maalouf.Instead his site deals with, “the real problems that they are having-—liberalism, conservatism, religion, responsibility in the couple, kids.” The quiz uses psychology to determine suitable matches based on questions about social attributes, individual attributes, couple attributes, and personal attributes, as opposed to the kind of person users might think they want.With a small marketing budget, the site soft-launched on Valentines Day 2013 with a goal to win 15,000 registered users. Without any advertising since April, et3arraf’s user-base has grown to 56,000.It is most popular in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, followed by Jordan and Morocco.Calling it a “good problem,” Maalouf is waiting for his lawyers to weigh in, but thinks he’d prefer angel to VC financing: “We still decide everything about the site and I am not sure if I want to share it with someone yet.” Et3arraf lays claim to being the first Middle Eastern dating platform, “for Arabs, by Arabs, in Arabic.” “We think we are successful in countries where cultural constraints make it difficult for singles from opposite gender to meet,” say Maalouf and his co-founder Rakan Nimer.The idea for et3arraf was borne from a heartbreak Maalouf suffered in France.Similar “logic that builds Amazon’s algorithm will be used to suggest other users,” explains Nimer.
Inspired by a book about an Egyptian architect, she booked a flight to Cairo, though knew little about the culture and religion of this predominantly Muslim country. Surely a woman traveling alone can’t want to live in a Muslim country—considered by definition a misogynist society. I see the same news they watch each evening on television. To the French women of that evening long ago, to other Europeans, and to my fellow US citizens, this book is my effort to answer these questions and others I have been asked.“ He and Nimer met at a tech mixer, and agreed that marriage websites were an untapped market in the Arab world.“There is a cultural constraint between genders [in the region],” Maalouf says. And at the same time, there is a lot of social pressure for young people to get married at a certain age: You are 30? You should find a wife.” Conceived as something similar to Ok Cupid or e Harmony, the cofounders say et3arraf uniquely preserves “the cultural constraint” for conservative Arabs, while giving users the chance to interact and meet more like-minded matches.From there she had the opportunity to work in Egypt, Syria and Israel before teaching at Birzeit University in the West Bank. For those of you who don’t have immediate access to the book, Moore agreed to share some of her experiences with Epicure & Culture through an exclusive interview.The entire trip through the Middle East lasted 15 years. She describes daily life, navigating her identity, interacting with men and other women in the Middle East, and gaining a better understanding of Muslim culture (hint: the answers may surprise you).