Jordan: A Great Gay Destination
By William Forster
Do Not MissAs far as sightseeing, the real treasures of the country are beyond Amman. Petra is an utterly magical sight: a city carved into canyon walls of blood red and pink sandstone, made famous in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Jerash is a beautiful Roman site where they still stage live chariot races. Wadi Rum is a dramatic desert canyon inhabited by Bedouin (an ethnic group of desert dwellers) and formerly the haunt of T. E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia). Other nature reserves, like the Dana Nature Reserve are lush and green and filled with wildlife. You can always relax by staying at one of the world-class resorts on the Dead Sea or going down to Aqaba, a town on the Red Sea, with accommodation to fit every budget -- and some of the most dramatic underwater coral reefs in the world.
Food in Jordan is outstanding. The traditional Mediterranean diet of hummus, schwarma, olives, and salads is nourishing and healthy. Amman has fine dining, as does Madaba, a predominately Christian city near Amman where you can enjoy local wine. In Aqaba, you can sample local fresh seafood. Street food is always hot, fresh, sanitary, and a great value, too.
Many visitors go to Jordan from Israel, most going just to Petra on one-day coach tours. If ou do that, however, you will miss out on a great deal that the country has to offer. Border crossings from Israel can be a headache, or you can fly directly into Amman. Royal Jordanian often has discounted tickets and has a coach-class like we used to have on our domestic airlines.
Jordan is not a typical gay destination like Barcelona, but it is definitely worth visiting. You will be presently surprised in every way. Remember, traditional Muslim societies do not necessarily fear homosexual sex acts: they fear a gay identity. For Westerners who are gay and out, this attitude can come across as particularly offensive. But gay visitors need to remember Forster and that, at one time, the Middle East was a relative refuge for gay men who faced jail-time in Europe. Middle Eastern societies are in a state of flux and grappling with issues of modernity, globalization, and secularization. For many in the Middle East, sexuality and gender issues are yet another example of Western cultural imperialism. However, medieval Arabic love poetry idolized the beautiful young man; 1,001 Nights has many examples of homosexual liaisons. So step back, take a deep breath, leave you presuppositions on the plane, and open yourself to one of the gay-friendlyest closeted cultures in the world.