Gay Beirut

Beirut

Road by the sea, Beirut. Photo by Guaka

Beirut

A melting pot of many cultures, Beirut is home to a great diversity of languages, nationalities and religions. This provides many contrasts in the streets, where churches and mosques sit side by side, and ancient houses survive beside modern towers.

Numerous hotels provide good accommodations, and the many restaurants offer a wide variety of cuisines. The city never sleeps. Night life gets started at around 10pm to continue into the wee hours. Monot and Gimmayze Streets, both in Ashrafieh, are centers of  the scene; Hamra Street is another busy area. Another favorite, the Casino du Liban in Jounieh, has luxurious gaming rooms, elaborate Vegas style entertainment, and fine dining.

As far as the gay scene is concerned, more than one reviewer has described Beirut as the “Provincetown of the Middle East.” A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, for a country where homosexuality is still illegal and police can raid gay meeting places, and people still keep their sexuality secret from their families. In this part of the Arab world it would be hard to find another place where gays enjoy as much freedom, but you won't see men walking hand in hand down Hamra Street either.

In public, locals say, you still have to be discreet. Gay people can hang out together in chic cafes, dine at trendy restaurants, or dance the night away at hip clubs without fear of being harassed by the police, but sexual meeting places like bathhouses and cruising areas can be more dangerous. Beirut became a magnet for men from all over the Middle East, and until recently from Europe and beyond as well. But with fewer international visitors since the peak years around 2010-2012, an influx of Syrian refugees, and increasing uncertainty about the country's political and economic future, people are now more cautious in 2014.

With the disappearance of LebTour, the LGBT travel service and tour guide, and BearArabia - both offline, without any explanation - two of the best local resources for gay visitors, featured in articles in the New York Times and other western papers, are now gone. Their tours to Syria ended as the war there escalated, and they lost business in other neighboring Arab nations too. Their gay nightlife guide and cruising information, once the most accurate and uptdated online, will be missed.

 

Getting here

Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport is about 20 minutes from downtown. Taxis services are available from the airport. Certified taxis with the airport logo are parked next to the arrival terminal. Regulated by airport authorities, they charge a standard official rate. Charges of regular taxis found elsewhere are subject to bargaining.

Getting around

Beirut is a compact city, so walking is the best way to see the sights. If you’re going farther, taxis are easy to find. For area bus services see the website of the Lebanese Commuting Company, known as the LCC

Currency and Money

Lebanese lira are the currency, but many places accept US dollars and euros. ATMs are found in the center. Let your home bank know your travel plans to avoid credit card hassles, and ask if they have a local partner bank that can save on ATM withdrawal fees.

 

Media & resources

paper.li has online LGBT news and information for Lebanon and the Arab diaspora, updated weekly.

The Blog from BeirutBoy at GuyMeetsWorld has tips and news about the city. GayInBeirut is another blog of interest.

Beirut.com has more general info on what to do and where to stay here.

The Empire Metropolis at Centre Sofil is a gay-friendly art house cinema with international screenings and events.

Helem is the LGBTIQ community center, with services, art, cinema and social events; also they publish the bi-quarterly Barra Magazine.

TimeOut Beirut has a good general guide to city restaurants, places to stay, and sights to see.

See Jadaliyya for a better understanding of Lebanese society and the influence of events in neighboring countries. This independent ezine, produced by ASI (Arab Studies Institute), provides regional insights and critical analysis for readers in North America, Europe, the Middle East and beyond, in Arabic, French, English, and Turkish.

Mawaleh, the first and only gay magazine in neighboring Syria, from Sami Hamwi "a Syrian gay guy," struggles to continue in the face of the deteriorating situation there.

See Proud Lebanon for information about their volunteers' work to help gay Syrian refugees in Beirut, often victims of torture and extortion by both sides in that country's civil war. Contributions are welcome, as even the smallest donations are helpful to those who've lost everything.

For some local bars and other listings see our Gay Beirut maps & listings tab. Consider all gay guides to Beirut, even local ones, to out of date (send us any recent information you have). Clubs open and close, or move around the city frequently, and gay clubs prefer to keep a low profile online, relying instead on word of mouth. Advice from a friendly local is your best bet before venturing into the streets for the first time. Once you have an address, take a taxi for door-to-door service.

- Staff - December 2013

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