When people talk about enriching Arabic online content, they often overlook specialized listings websites that attract large numbers of users. The field is broad and yet to be explored and exploited in a way that fully meets public need.
Hatgawez (which means ‘I will get married’ in Egyptian Arabic) is the first Egyptian website to offer wedding-related services and listings. It was launched last month, to target millions of youth who are either getting ready for marriage or considering the idea, regardless of their education and socio-economic status. The Egyptian market is currently cornered by Zafafi, from the Gulf, but a second Egyptian marriage-oriented website, Zaghrouta, is also expected to launched this year.
Despite the richness of Zafafi’s website (its content consists of advice, trending topics, honeymoon destinations, home design and decor, wedding dresses, and more), the site doesn’t offer any service to help implement these things.
Hatgawez hopes to fill this market gap by providing listings for everything an engaged person might need, including wedding reception halls, wedding contract registry offices, dresses, photographers, hairdressers, wedding decorators, accessories, medical examination clinics, flower shops, honeymoon destinations, henna artists, bands, limo service, jewelers, and more. The website aggregates this content, providing a one-stop-shop for the betrothed.
Hatgawez also includes a blog that posts topics related to couples and their married life, written either in Egyptian colloquial or standardized Arabic.
After an awful wedding planning experience, Omar Mustafa decided to develop Hatgawez. “Couples often take decisions without enough information or under time pressure,” says Omar, a journalist specialized in online content and currently in charge of the website for the Egyptian Shourouk newspaper. He has previously worked for the Yallabina entertainment website which offers listings on restaurants, movies, and coffee shops, and is run by LINKdotNET.
Mustafa believes that Egypt lacks this kind of specialized service website, widespread and popular in the West, in fields such as health care, education, marriage, and more. Even when they do exist, he says, they’re in English and hence of limited use to the community as a whole. “We have the right to have content in a language that all people can understand and not only one particular class.”
Searches on Hatgawez can be done either based on the activity or the city, although information is currently only available for Cairo. Mustafa has plans to add Alexandria, as well as other Egyptian cities depending on the availability of information.
For now, service providers can join the website for free; in the future, the website will host sponsored ads where advertisers will show at the top of search results, like in Google.
“The idea might seem naive and commercial, but we aspire to provide different, useful, and genuine content to users,” says Mustafa. Plus, he aspires to incorporate user feedback: visitors will have the opportunity to post their opinions in the review section.
The website is currently relying on contributions from friends and colleagues who are writing and collecting data for free, so the project can gain some. “We won’t seek foreign investment before we stand on solid ground,” says Mustafa.
But Mustafa seems confident of Hatgawez’s advantages over its competitors, as it combines service journalism and useful content, written in plain language and posted in a variety of forms including text, infographics, and audiovisuals.
For the future, Hatgawez’s management aspires to expand the platform to allow service providers and owners to create their own pages on the website, to be able to constantly post updates about their latest activities and services.