Lebanon Gay Life – The Nomadic Boys

Lebanon Gay Life - The Nomadic Boys

When it comes to LGBTQ rights, Lebanon is a bit of a blur. On the one hand, it’s renowned for being one of the most gay friendly Arab countries, but on the other, life is still a challenge for the local LGBTQ community.

Lebanon has a fantastic gay scene (by Arab country standards!), it has the largest gay club of the Arab world (called POSH), it’s the only Arab country that has a Pride event, and has a growing number of politicians that publicly campaign for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

But, this is still a place where conservative homophobic religious voices retain a strong influence in politics as can be seen by the way they try to repress Beirut Pride each year.

We were fortunate to meet the founder of Beirut Pride, Hadi Damien. In 2018, Hadi was arrested and only released on condition that he cancels the remainder of that year’s Beirut Pride. A year later, the 2019 Beirut Pride formally went ahead, but the organisers were, again, forced to cancel the opening event due to the same religious pressure. In this interview, Hadi tells us more about his experience as an LGBTIQ+ activist in Lebanon, his experience being arrested, and what life is like for the local LGBTIQ+ community.

Lebanon Gay Life

I grew up in a family that was not obsessed with gender roles and stereotypes. There were, admittedly, the occasional “you’re a boy, don’t act like a girl” comments which destabilised me and contributed to my self-consciousness. I monitored my gestures, my tone of voice, and later on my glances.

Gay or not, I’d probably have gone to the same school, but my experience with homophobia would have been different.

By Stefan Arestis – Full Story at the Nomadic Boys

Gay Beirut – The Nomadic Boys

Lebanon is one of the most liberal, progressive and gay friendly places in the Arab world. This is saying a lot for a country where homosexuality is still a crime. However, by comparison to its Arab neighbours, Beirut has the best (albeit quite underground) gay scene, including one of the largest gay clubs in the Middle East called POSH.

We visited gay Beirut from Cyprus to celebrate Stefan’s birthday over a long weekend and absolutely loved the food, the people and of course the many gay parties. This is our gay guide to Beirut featuring the best gay bars and clubs, events, gay friendly hotels and best things to do.

Gay Rights in Lebanon

Lebanon doesn’t have the best track record with regards to LGBTQ rights. Homosexuality is illegal, there are no anti-discrimination laws, there is absolutely zero recognition of same-sex partnerships and the LGBTQ community are banned from openly serving in the Lebanese army.

On the plus side, proactive steps are being taken by judges and some politicians to decriminalise homosexuality and it was declassified as an illness in 2013. In addition, the right to change legal gender was introduced in 2016. From our experience travelling in the Middle East, Lebanon definitely ranks as one of the most gay friendly Arab countries, but remember, this is an extremely conservative region of the world when it comes to LGBTQ rights.

By Stefan Arestis – Full Story at the Nomadic Boys

Middle East Gay Travel Resources

Most Gay Friendly Muslim Countries – Keep Calm and Wander

Most Gay Friendly Muslim Countries - The Nomadic Boys

Being openly gay in the Arab world is certainly not an easy feat! If it doesn’t land you a jail sentence or even a death penalty, the huge stigma attached to it will likely compromise your job prospects, alienate your family, or worse, make you the target of some pretty nasty homophobic violent crimes.

We have travelled extensively around the Middle East as a gay couple and overall had a positive experience. For example, we climbed the world’s tallest building in Dubai, got lost in the rich culture of Jerusalem, wondered around the souks of Tunis, visited stunning mosques in Abu Dhabi and even found a few gay clubs in Beirut. Of course we were always cautious to avoid any public displays of affection and only booked a double bed in hotels we were certain are gay friendly.

In this article, we’ve set out the 5 most gay friendly Arab countries based on our first hand experience and research. To be clear, this relates to the 22 Arab countries around the Middle East and North Africa, which are also member states of the Arab League. They are: Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the Comoro Islands, Iraq, Djibouti, and the United Arab Emirates. This does not include Israel, Turkey and Iran.

The point of this article is to show that outside of the pink comfort zone of the gay friendly countries of the world, there also exist pockets of LGBTQ friendly destinations, even in the more unlikely of places, like in the Arab world!

By Stefan Arestis – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

 

Getting From Beruit Airport to City Center – The Nomadic Boys

Beruit Airport, Lebanon - The Nomadic Boys

Lebanon’s main international airport is the “Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport” (BEY), located around 9 km (5.6 miles) south from downtown Beirut.

It takes around 15 minutes by taxi to get from Beirut airport to the city centre. This is currently the main way to reach downtown Beirut from the airport as there is no public transport serving the airport.

We’ve set out below all the options available, including for late arrivals and other travel tips based on our personal experience travelling in Lebanon.

Public Taxi and Official Airport Taxi

Taxi is the main way to get from Beirut airport to the city centre and should cost no more than $20 (30,000 Lebanese pounds). There is always an abundance of public taxi drivers waiting outside the Arrivals Hall at all hours of the day. However, they do not use meters and will try to overcharge you the standard $20 rate.

By Stefan Arestis – Full Story at The Nomadic Boys

Lebanon Gay Travel Resources

 

Gay Lebanon: Safe for Gay Travelers? – The Nomadic Boys

Gay Lebanon

Lebanon is one of the most liberal, progressive and gay friendly countries in the Arab world.

However, this is by Arabic standards. In other words, being gay in Lebanon won’t get you arrested with risk of death as it would in say, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Iran, and neither is it as restrictive as in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. However, being openly gay in Lebanon is a criminal offence, so you definitely need to be cautious.

We visited gay Lebanon as a gay couple to celebrate Stefan’s birthday. We absolutely loved the country, the people, the food and were so impressed to discover a thriving LGBTQ community, as well as a handful of really fun gay bars and clubs despite the anti-gay laws. Overall, travelling as a gay couple in Lebanon, we found it to be quite safe, but as long as you abide by various safety precautions.

Gay Rights in Lebanon

On the face of it, gay life in Lebanon is hard because homosexuality is a criminal offence. On the positive, there is a growing movement to decriminalise homosexuality in Lebanon on a political and legal level.

By Stefan Arestis – Full Story at The Nomadic Boys

Gay Lebanon Travel Resources

 

Gay Beruit – The Nomadic Boys

Gay Beruit - The Nomadic Boys

Lebanon is one of the most liberal, progressive and gay friendly places in the Arab world. This is saying a lot for a country where homosexuality is still a crime. However, by comparison to its Arab neighbours, Beirut has the best (albeit quite underground) gay scene, including one of the largest gay clubs in the Middle East called POSH.

We visited gay Beirut from Cyprus to celebrate Stefan’s birthday over a long weekend and absolutely loved the food, the people and of course the many gay parties. This is our gay guide to Beirut featuring the best gay bars and clubs, events, gay friendly hotels and best things to do.

A word of warning to gay travellers to Lebanon, although the country is more progressive than places like Iran, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it is still a largely Islamic influenced country where homosexuality remains illegal. Therefore, be careful with public displays of affection and avoid posting anything online that is LGBTQ related before/during your trip to prevent any problems at the airport immigration. Also, avoid having an Israeli stamp in your passport as Lebanon has an outright ban on anything related to Israel/Israelis. Be sure to check out our article about gay life in Lebanon for more practical safety tips.

Gay bars in Beirut

As homosexuality is still illegal in Lebanon, places are careful not to advertise themselves as being openly “gay bars“, preferring “gay friendly” instead, in order to prevent having any problems with the police. These are the main gay friendly bars in Beirut that are thriving despite the anti-gay laws:

Bardo: this is one of the oldest and famous gay bars of Beirut. It is popular with twinks (and their fans) especially at the “Powerpuff Queens” party every Thursday. Generally it doesn’t get busy until after 11pm. But if you come before, it’s a lot quieter, which makes it great for a few cocktails, especially during the week when they have 2 for 1 happy hour offers. Bardo is open every day until 2am and is located in downtown Beirut on Mexico Street, just off Hamra Street.

By Stefan Arestis – Full Story at The Nomadic Boys

Gay Beruit Travel Resources

 

Harissa: Where The Virgin Mary is Watching Over Lebanon – Keep Calm and Wander

Harissa - Alain

Lebanon is a predominantly Muslim country but it is the most open-minded muslim country I’ve ever been to. Beirut, as a capital, is littered with Christian churches and mosques. People of two different faiths live in harmony. It’s a city where I didn’t feel like I have to watch out what I do.

I never had that feeling of being paranoid. Sorry Dubai or Abu Dhabi but you still make me paranoid everything I go there (8 times in the past two years). There’s this constant feeling of being watchful – because you don’t wanna end up in jail by just accidentally touching a man’s hip, right? Beirut, on the other hand, has a carefree, relaxed air despite the horrible traffic in the city. The people are nice and the Lebanese men are – oh, boy, don’t get me talking about them. Let’s just say, they’re my type. LOL…

About Harissa. It is a small community on top of Mt. Lebanon where a huge statue of the Virgin Mary is watching down the city with open arms. To reach Harissa, you’ve got to go to Jounieh, a city just 27 kms outside Beirut. It would take an hour with the endless traffic. Or less. Once you reach Jounieh, take a 9-minute cable ride to the top of Mt. Lebanon. You can also drive up there by car but riding the cable would be more panoramic and satisfying.

Jounieh. This city is famous for its club and restaurants. In fact, it is the nightlife spot of Beirut. You can admire its stunning view of the bay when you’re up there in Harissa.

Biblical City. Do you know that Mary and Jesus used to live in Lebanon? It’s been said that Mary would wait for Jesus at a cave in Maghdouche while he preached in Sidon and nearby places.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Lebanon Gay Travel Resources

Al Amin Mosque in Beirut – Keep Calm and Wander

Al Amin Mosque - Keep Calm and Wander

While I was in Beirut, I had the chance to go inside Al Amin Mosque. The locals call it as Blue Mosque, simply because of its blue dome that sits on top of it. Mohammad Al Amin is not an ancient mosque. Compared to the Blue Mosque in Turkey, in Egypt or in any other countries in the Middle East, this is a new place of worship. It was inaugurated in 2008.

When I visited there on a hot June weather, I was hesitant to go inside because I was wearing shorts. However, I had a colourful sarong inside my bag, just in case I’d be refused entry. I could simply wrap it around my waist to cover my flawless legs.

I was there around 10:30 in the morning but the guard told me to come back at 11:00 because the janitors were still cleaning. So, I walked around the area – despite the searing heat and went back 30 minutes later. Good thing was – the guard let me in – with me in knee-length shorts. He asked if I were a muslim and when I said no, he handed me out a leaflet about Islam. He directed me to a space where I could place my shoes properly. I was the first visitor (or tourist) that day and it was so quiet. I could even hear my own footsteps on a carpeted floor. In fact, I was even guilty of making a teeny bit of a sound.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

I Love Beruit – Keep Calm and Wander

I Love Beirut - Keep Calm and Wander

A lot of cities around the world are joining the fad of installing “I Love …” signs. We have that, too, in my city – Toronto. These signs are usually placed in downtown area or where locals congregate. Or in touristy neighbourhoods.

Beirut, of course, has one. Its “I Love Beirut” sign is found at the lovely Beirut Souks. This is a trendy shopping area where fashionistas abound. Boy, I couldn’t get my eyes off those chic Lebanese men here.

But, one thing I noticed is that, shopping here is a bit more expensive than shopping in Toronto or NYC. You’ll find international brands and fabulous restaurants that serve local cuisine. The good thing is, it’s not touristy and crowded.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Lebanon Gay Travel Resources

Lebanese Cuisine – Keep Calm and Wander

Lebanese Cuisine - Alain

Below are photos of Lebanese cuisine / food I ate while in Beirut for three nights. These are all the dinner food we had for iftar. This is not a regular meal for dinner but it’s a food feast (aka, food porn).

Imagine three adults and a child gorging on these delightful cuisine? We had more than enough for all of us. I never went back to my hotel room every night without feeling bloated and exhausted from eating. Hahahahaha…

Thanks to a high school friend of mine and her generous Lebanese husband who spoiled me with these foods. Their hospitality made me gain extra pounds; Man, I’ve got to try what’s on the table, right? So, you can’t put all the blame on me.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Lebanon Gay Travel Resources