Briand Bedford-Eichler takes a trip to Lebanon to find the best gay hotspots.
Lebanon is a melting pot of European, Mediterranean, East and West cultures. The St Georges Beach and Marina is the best example of this and is the best place for those who wish to mix and mingle with the locals. Here the hottest guys the city has to offer lounge around in their swimwear. Sadly photography is not permitted but Zaitunay Bay is THE marina in Lebanon where the largest yachts and all that goes with them can be found. A walk along the promenade is an absolute delight at night with the amazing lights!
Beirut is a safe and fun place. Arabs from the Golf States and Iranian tourists fear driving through Syria but still do so as this is by far the cheapest way to reach this pulsating city on the western Mediterranean shores. Saudis and Jordanians escape the summer heat at home and visit Beirut. For the gay scene this means a mixture of men from throughout the Middle East, difficult for us Europeans to determine their origins. It seems that in hard times the Lebanese enjoy spending money and enjoying life. The local tour specialists Lebtour (www.lebtour.com) will be happy to plan your trip to Lebanon. Bertho is an expert in his own country and ensures you will enjoy your time in Lebanon. He is also the local organiser of the Bear Arabia event and many other fascinating events and tours in the Arabian world.
The nightlife in Beirut is vibrant – the people here love life and show it! There are numerous outdoor restaurants where one can enjoy a hoohah in the warm evening breeze along with the delicious and varied Lebanese cuisine. One of the best addresses for this is the restaurant Republic located in Zalka. This is a haunt of extremely good looking, wealthy, young men and their stunning, high heeled girlfriends, much to the distraction of the abundant, attractive and attentive waiters.
Bardo (Mexico Street, Clemenceau) is the new playground for the gay scene in Lebanon’s latest effort to recapture the era when Brigitte Bardot was a regular guest to the city and Beirut was a fashionable playground for the rich and famous.
A recommendation which will help pass the time until the clubs are busy is the Armenian Restaurant Mayrig (282 Pasteur Street, Gemayzeh). The numerous dishes ranging from cold followed by warm starters and the main course followed by dessert is an explosion of tastes and perfumes. Try the meatballs with a red cherry sauce or the “Rose Turkish Delight” ice cream – just to mention two highlights of the excellent menu. The attractive waiters are a further delight.
After dinner the club Milk (in Port of Beirut, Salifi) or Ghost (Saloumeh / Dekwaneh – behind Freeway Center) await to entertain you with oriental sounds and great looking guys. These clubs are frequented by locals and the exotic music animates spontaneous belly dancing. The entrance fee of around US$20 includes an open bar, so once you arrive you end up staying long after sunrise. There is something special about this emerging gay scene, which has been long lost in Europe and America. The genuine joie de vivre electrifies. The clubs don’t get busy until midnight – even during the week, when they are notably emptier. Photography in these clubs is not allowed, due to the double lives lived out by many of those who flee the family and go clubbing for a few hours of fun!
For those looking for a traditional hamam, Shahrazad in the Al Massaken Street, Burj Hammoud is your best bet. Take a taxi because this place is difficult to find. A towel is needed in all areas. The sauna itself is on the lower floor with a dry and steam sauna and a Jacuzzi, with cubicles for massages and scrubbing.
A visit to the country’s most popular tourist site is a priority. The trip to the Jeitta Grotto is well worth the effort. Held for one of the world wonders, these caves are very impressive. Especially popular is the phallic-shaped stalagmite, which stands on the path on the main cave. A boat takes you through the lower cave on a 7km ride. Apart from when the lower cave is flooded by the melted snow, the caves are open all year round to the public.
Outside Beirut gay life is sparse and more difficult to find, but here are a couple of tips:
The latest highlight to Byblos is the Eddésands Resort – the largest resort in the Middle East. This five star resort was built on the former gay beach Paradise in 2003. The gay scene moved to St. Georges Beach in Beirut, although a small, gay beach is now located on the far end of the bay.
A visit to the self-help project Batrouniyat, located in Batroun and run by Philipp, is especially recommended around lunchtime. This restaurant with shop offering homemade local produce such as rose water or soap, oils and sweets was opened in 2007. The owner recently returned to Lebanon after living abroad for many years. On Sunday an extremely popular brunch is served here with local specialties including their famous lemonade.
Briand Bedford-Eichler is the editor of the Spartacus International Gay Guide. Briand’s trip was made possible by the fine GLBT folks at OUT Adventures.