Tel Aviv gets competition as Mideast gay hotspot

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 |  Ryan Jones

Tel Aviv is starting to get some unexpected competition for the title of the Middle East’s top gay tourism destination from neighboring Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.

A number of gay and gay-friendly tour operators in Beirut said they are working to put the city on the radars of those looking for gay-friendly travel options. Gay tourism is reportedly a booming industry, and at least some in Beirut want their slice.

The tour operators said Beirut boasts many gay-friendly nightclubs and other social venues, as well as being home to fascinating history and an authentic taste of “the Arabian spirit.”

There are also a number of downsides for gays looking to visit Beirut. First, and most important, is the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Lebanon, though that law is rarely, if ever, enforced. Nevertheless, there is a prevailing hostility toward homosexuals, especially among more traditional Muslim communities.

In light of that danger, the tour operators said they must warn their gay visitors to avoid certain behavior in public. But researchers noted that Beirut is much more tolerant of homosexuals than it was 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, 125 miles down the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv has already carved itself a niche as the top regional stop for gay tourists.

Tel Aviv is home to Israel’s only openly gay beaches, is inundated with gay-friendly nightlife and is touted as the only city in the Middle East where homosexual couples can be themselves in public without fear of retribution. The city and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism have actually engaged in international advertising campaigns to promote Tel Aviv as the gay capital of the Middle East.

Bible-believing Jews and Christians in Israel lament the state’s chasing after “pink dollars” when Israel’s ongoing biblical importance and its history already attract an enormous amount of tourism.

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