Prospective brides and grooms and their parents introducing themselves during the ‘Meet to Match’ event in Dubai on Friday. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: Single Pakistanis exchanged introductions at a Dubai matchmaking event on Friday, with hopes of follow-up meetings leading to marriage.

Roughly 200 men and women, many accompanied by parents or relatives, showed up on Friday at the Meet to Match event at Dhow Palace Hotel in search of a life partner.

They were members of event organiser pakistanimatrimony.com, an online portal for Pakistani spouse seekers.

About 12 per cent of them find a match through the site, which has around 200,000 members, said Farook Shamsudeen, the international business head of the portal’s group company, Consim Info Pvt Ltd.

“We can only say that from what people tell us; the figure could be higher. Not everyone shares everything with us, we’re [simply] there to help people find life partners,” he said.

UAE-based Pakistanis prefer fellow residents, and are less particular about prospects’ caste or ethnic background compared to those within Pakistan, Shamsudeen added.

Pakistanis are one of the biggest expat communities in the UAE.

“This country and the region is more like an extension of the Pakistan marriage market rather than an independent market,” Shamsudeen said.

They are also more “in line” with Pakistani culture and traditions, and their parents are typically “heavily involved” in matchmaking, he said, comparing them to Pakistanis in the West.

“Sometimes the prospects don’t even show up for the matchmaking event. ‘My mother will come’, they say.

“We really encourage the singles to come in person, see each other and interact. I think that helps them find their interests better. It’s still a controlled family environment; we’re not letting them loose, so to speak.”

Shamsudeen added that matchmaking is culturally rooted in Pakistani communities, with some individuals practising it as a hobby and others as a full-time career. Also, family and friends are typically on the lookout for prospects, especially at weddings.

“We’re not going to replace that kind of social system, all that will continue forever. We’re happy they are there.

“The online option and events like this today [Friday] give people more avenues. They are less formal and you can find out about so many prospects together,” he said.

However, he admitted “the process tends to be quicker and simpler when parents are there; they are so specific in their requirements.

“Singles themselves are looking more at ‘personality compatibility.’ That’s not easy to know who can fit this bill in one or two introductions.”

The Friday ice-breaker was meant only for female members between the ages of 20-35 and male members 22-38 years old.

“So far, we’re fortunate to have about an equal number of men and women. They are in their prime group. They are ready and looking for marriage.

“In the West, in general, people tend to get married later. Maybe it’s because they want to spend more time gaining more academic experience, or they are in relationships.”

After staff-assisted one-on-one introductions at the event, the guests were free to mingle.

“This is my second time at Meet to Match, I’ve come all the way from Abu Dhabi,” said Mohammad Fareed, 31.

“I’m looking for a homely kind of a wife, someone who would like to stay at home and not hold a job. She should be ready to settle in the UAE and not migrate to the West, because life and culture is so different there,” added Fareed, a banking and finance sector professional.

Entry to the event costs Dh250 per member, plus two accompanying persons. “We don’t try to make money from the event. We try to cover our administrative service,” Shamsudeen said.

A ‘Profile Book’ was provided at each table to browse through information on participating members. The book was used only during the event and for privacy reasons it was not given to any participant to take home, organisers said.