Situated on a natural harbor, prosperous, cosmopolitan Dubai is a former fishing
and pearling port founded in 1833. While it has always drawn expatriates, the
discovery of oil in 1966 brought frenetic development and influxes of foreign workers
and tourists. English is now Dubai’s third most frequently spoken language, after
Arabic and Farsi. The shopping capital of the Middle East has profusions of vast hotels,
even vaster malls and, for the foreseeable future, vast construction sites.

In the last couple years, it resembles Las Vegas on crack! There is so much
building going on there and so many celebrities making a getting away there,
it has become the place to see and been seen at. It has an amazing skyline
and some breathtaking architecture and opulence. Currently the tallest building
in the world is being constructed, to be finished in 2008.

Lured by the shopping, beaches and desert safaris, more and more gay and lesbian
travelers are discovering Dubai — despite the United Arab Emirates’ harsh official
anti-gay stance — including GIs on leave from Iraq, wealthy sheiks, Europeans and
world travelers on stopovers. Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE. Recently, police
arrested 22 UAE men, one Indian, and three Arabs from neighbouring countries at a
hotel in Ghantut in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It’s very hit and miss but discretion is advised.
Just remember that this is an Islamic country – and a pretty liberal one as far as Islam goes.
Much of the Gay community uses Internet to stay in touch in the emirates. See Article.



The Desert City is said to have two climates — hot and very hot — but January
days average an enjoyable 75 degrees. Stunning bodies line Dubai’s beaches, the most
popular of which are Jumeira and Jabal Ali. Most parks and beaches have days strictly
reserved for women and children, so men should check with their hotel before heading
down to Jumeira on Saturdays or al-Mamzar on Wednesdays. Women will be relieved
to know that swimwear, including bikinis, is perfectly acceptable pool or beachside.

You can ski indoors here or sandboard! Take your pick. But shopping is the favorite
pastime! With a flurry of Chanel & Gucci stores, mega-malls, streets of gold and old
spice markets, Dubai is a shopoholic’s mecca. So when the entire city ups its efforts
and marks down its prices for the fabulous annual Dubai Shopping Festival
(Jan. 4-Feb. 4, ), it’s time to grab several empty suitcases and
head for the Venice of the Gulf.

Dubai dos and don’ts

Although Dubai is in many ways strikingly modern, please note some important
caveats: There are venues where gays can meet, but as homosexuality is punishable
by up to 14 years’ imprisonment, overt cruising and public displays of affection are not
recommended. Again, the internet is best – unless you know someone there. But caution
is always advised.

 Don’t consume alcohol in public, and don’t eat, drink or smoke in public during the holy
month of Ramadan (, which in 2006 runs Sept. 23-Oct. 22.
Don’t photograph Muslim women, and don’t sit in such a way that the soles of your feet
point at anyone.

Resembling a billowing sail, the outstanding all-suite Burj-al-Arab ; ($1,100-$3,700 a night) is considered the world’s best hotel
(7 stars! with prices to match). Dubai InterContinental (
 is a little more affordable ($122-$477) by Dubai Harbor has a gay-popular bar next to its
coffee shop and a 24-hour InterFitness center, complete with pool, floodlit tennis court,
two championship squash courts and state-of-the-art gym.

Dubai offers more than 450 restaurants, with flavors ranging from Thai to Cajun. Shabestan
(at the InterContinental, see above) offers fabulous Persian flavors and sounds. The stunning
al-Mahara (Burj-al-Arab’ +9714/301-7648) excels at tantalizing seafood dishes. Nightlife is
limited to hotels and private clubs, where the consumption of alcohol is permitted.

Recently I was told, Gay-frequented bars and clubs change often and are subject to
occasional homophobic police raids. Jules (Le Meridien, Airport Road; +9714/331-3555; ), in the chic Meridien, is a current venue of choice, where
visiting hotties mingle over Mexican snacks.