Technology and the holy month
Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of everything from our social lives to our shopping habits, and the way we do Ramadan is no exception. From online shopping to charitable giving and entertainment, various apps and services are changing how we experience the holy month.
Consumption sits at the top of our tech-mediated habits during Ramadan with 22% of adults surveyed in Egypt saying they spent more time shopping online last Ramadan because of the pandemic, and 41% saying they use their phone more during the holy month. A separate AdColony survey conducted in the Middle East and North Africa last year found that 82% of respondents mostly use their smartphones for online shopping and 51% of Ramadan shoppers prefer to buy stuff through apps. This comes after Google search analytics dubbed last year’s covid-ramadan double whammy “the most digital Ramadan of all time.”
So, what are people using to go about fulfilling their online shopping needs? Amazon-owned Souq sells everything from home furnishings to kids clothing and groceries and delivers right to your doorstep. Saudi Arabian online retailer Noon offers much of the same and even has a dedicated Ramadan Home Essentials section for all your cooking, cleaning and hosting needs. The Dutch online trading platform OLX is another huge player in Egypt that allows users to directly list and purchase things like homes, cars and appliances. If you’re looking to browse the dizzying array of e-commerce websites available in Egypt right now, Yaoota provides an online shopping search engine that aggregates results from across platforms like Souq, Jumia and Tradeline.
With hunger occupying a larger chunk of our brain capacity this month, food delivery services offer a major convenience: Platforms like Talabat (formerly Otlob), Mrsool and El Menus connect users to hundreds of food outlets and deliver meals right to your doorstep, while Mumm works with home based cooks to provide and deliver meals. If you’re not into the whole eating out thing, you can order groceries online through Instashop and 1Trolley, or order freshly baked goods from Breadfast. Carrefour and Gourmet also have their own home delivery apps. And with restaurants and cafes now required to close by 9pm, these platforms can be your best friends for sohour for the last week of Ramadan.
We’re also relying on tech now more than ever for our post-iftar entertainment needs with most Ramadan series available to stream on Shahid or Watch iT, who in 2019 began drawing ramadan series away from YouTube and onto their own platforms. Streaming app Hekayat also provides access to Egyptian and Arab series from elsewhere in the region.
But tech hasn't just made us more sedentary this month, it’s also made charitable giving way easier: The Neya app allows users to connect with the causes they care about most and offers easy access to volunteer work and donations to specific organizations, causes or people. If you’re looking to do good by providing food, the UNFP’s ShareTheMeal program allows you to purchase someone a meal for as little as USD 0.50 and the Egyptian Food Bank accepts online donations to provide iftar for one person for as little as EGP 25. Tekaya offers users and businesses a platform to sell meals and uncooked food ahead of their expiration date to those in need. You can also sign up as a consumer on their platform if you are in need of a fresh, reduced price meal.
Other apps worth mentioning for facilitating religious observance during the holiday include Muslim Pro, which notifies users of the call to prayer, has a Quran recitation feature and includes its own electronic sebha. Qibla Compass, which is essentially a compass with no points other than a sign which directs you towards the Kaaba in Mecca, is also popular.