The Good Life, Delivered: The Rise of Online Shopping in the Middle East
October 14, 2009
What do fast food, high-end electronics and waterpipes have in common? If you live in a Middle Eastern capital, the odds are good you can get any one of them delivered to your front door in under an hour. Websites in Egypt, Jordan, and throughout the Gulf are making online ordering faster and easier than ever—allowing customers to use centralized websites to order from their favorite restaurant menus and product catalogs.
Prepared food is the most common product delivered. Website ordering is not only fast and precise, but bilingual websites also help expatriates navigate a world in which their command of the local language is often imprecise.
Wheels Express, a Jordanian firm, offers a portable party. In addition to delivering movies, videogames and snacks in West Amman, Wheels Express promises to deliver a waterpipe with any of 19 flavors of tobacco within sixty minutes; the delivery comes with lit coals for the pipe.
One site in Dubai is even more ambitious. Brownbag.ae, an English-only site, promises to deliver anything its customers order to anywhere in Dubai in under an hour, twentyfour hours a day. Its products range from $2 cartons of cigarettes to iPod speakers priced at over $1000. The site also delivers many other products, including food, movies, and office supplies—with laptops and iPods coming soon.
Some of the sites are even going international. Otlob.com, a large Egypt-based site, has already opened partner sites in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.