When many travelers think of the Middle East as a gay destination, Tel Aviv is most likely to come to mind. However, that has not always been the case. E. M. Forster went to Alexandria, Egypt, to have his first experience of gay love, and one of the most famous gay poets of the twentieth century, Constantine Cavafy, also hailed from that sprawling metropolis on the sea.
Recently however, a lot of the great gay destinations of the Middle East have not been getting good press. First, the unrest associated with the Arab spring has made stalwarts of gay travel destinations like Tunisia less appealing. Even hotspot Beirut, long known for its exciting nightlife and hunky men, has become less attractive as Helem, the area’s only LGBT organization reports that Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code (“sexual intercourse contrary to nature” is punishable for up to 1 year in prison) has been used recently to harass gay and bisexual men.
Every since the infamous Nile Queen incident (in which 52 gay Egyptian men were arrested and “examined” for dancing without women partners on a floating disco), Egypt is not nearly as open as it used to be. Iran and Saudia Arabia, whatever their cultural appeal to tourists, remain difficult to visit and are known to execute gay men. Iraq, once safe for homosexuals, since the U.S-led invasion has since seen some of the worst gay-bashing and murder of homosexual men in the Middle East.