For about as long as I can remember, Beirut has been the go-to comparison for describing another place as desolate and dangerous. As in “the Bronx is the Beirut of America.” But according to a lengthy travel piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Beirut is now the “Provincetown of the Middle East.”
While homosexual activity (technically, sexual relations that officials deem “unnatural”) is illegal in Lebanon, as in most of the Arab world, Beirut’s vitality as a Mediterranean capital of night life has fueled a flourishing gay scene — albeit one where men can be nervous about public displays of affection and where security guards at clubs can intercede if the good times turn too frisky on the dance floor. But even more than the partying, Beirut represents a different Middle East for some gay and lesbian Arabs: the only place in the region where they can openly enjoy a social life denied them at home.
Security guards putting a stop to dance floor “friskiness” doesn’t sound very P-Town-ish to me, but the article does raise Beirut out of my “Top Ten Places I’ll Never Go” list.