GAY CULTURES IN CAIRO, EGYPT
Cairo is the cultural and sexual capital of the Middle-East offering a wide range of erotic possibilities for every taste. It is a multicultural “megapolis” harboring exiles from all over the Arab world, with a large community of men interested in gay sex. Islamic culture knows a strong taboo on homosexual practices, foremost on anal sex (liwat) which is forbidden in the Q’uran. The attitude regarding other practices is less clear which might offer an escape for homosex- ual men neglecting the taboo and engaging in other practices as mutual mastur- bation, intercrural or oral sex. But it is only a small percentage of the population which follows religious rules. Many men depart from those and care little about homosexual activities. Moreover, Cairo harbors important Christian minorities, in the first place the Kopts. Homosexuality is often attributed to these minorities as it is to Western tourists.
1. Spaces. Spaces for homosexual activities are omnipresent in the streets, but especially along the river Nile and on its beaches where men meet each other for sexual purposes. Arab male homosociality facilitates its male homoeroticism. Next to these places, there are public spaces as cottages, bars and baths where homosex- ual contacts are made. But there are no exclusive gay bars as they exist in most other big cities elsewhere. Hotel lobbies and bars where gay foreigners and male prostitutes congregate come closest to such an institution. Very few men have private space for gay sex at home so most men interested in homosexuality, have to go out in the streets to find it. In the Arab world, a strong public-private divide exists. Homosexuality, especially the passive role, is shamefull when it becomes public, but as long as it remains private, the involved person can keep up his honour (Gilmore 1987). Men have to prove their male honour, but if their private affairs that are considered to be shamefull do not filter back into public life, these do not fire back on their honorable status. Much depends on the position and the reliablity of the partner. As foreigners have no honour, they are easy targets for Arab men interested in gay sex.
1.1. Sexual border traffic. In the Arab world, homosexual identities and gay cultures are largely absent, but even stronger than in Latin-America, men seem to be available for active roles in homosexual activities. For this reason, Arab countries as Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco have always had a great reputation for gay tourism, but less so today because anti-western sentiments coincide with anti-homosexual ones. The growing awareness of homosexuality with the tabu still in full force has more- over made the practice more difficult.
2. Language. This has to be researched for Egypt from the beginning although there have been studies on Arab terminology (Schmitt 1995).
3. Identity and community. With the growing exposure to the Western world, gay identities and cultures are also developing, in the first place among Arabs living in western countries but also in the Arab countries themselves. Although some authors have claimed not to have found any trace of gay identity or community in Cairo (Miller 1992), others found it (Botje 19). As Cairo is a multicultural city where many influ- ences come together, there is also a diversity of gay identities. The rich Euro- peans and Arabs from the Gulf States have created their own spaces and cultures, as have gay men from the Egyptian middle class. Among the rich who have seen the gay world in the West, assuming a gay identity has become self- evident. It is unclear if this “being gay” has the same meaning in Cairo as in London or Paris. Among other groups, less exposed to Western culture, assuming a gay identity is much rarer.
4. Gender. There is a strict separation between active and passive roles. Men with strong homosexual interests are probably pushed into passive roles considered to be feminine. These homosexual men have of course not to comply that they are made passive and become feminized victims of male desire, and many indeed succesfully reject such roles. An explanation might be that sex equals power in Arab society. Homosexual men are considered to be dangerous as they have come to know the secrets of the men they had sex with. Also, they are seen as being well connected because of their presumed gay networks and might influence thus each other’s future. Homosexual men may be considered feminine and passive, but because of the rejection and violence they have faced, they have become fierce and brave characters which counteracts the idea of effeminacy and passivity. They occupy an ambivalent position between the secure masculinity of normal men who take active roles, and the femininity of women who have to comply to male desires.
5. Age. Homosexual acts are typically reserved for the unmarried. And between young men, it is the youngest who should take the passive role. So, homosexual men grow old with the prejudice they are childish because homosexual practices are something not done on an adult age and with a married status. Of couse, many exceptions break this rule.
6. Sexual practices. There seems to be a clear divide between active and passive sex, and a strong emphasis on anal practices. The more private and intimate a social connection becomes, the less important such rules become and sexual relations can become interchangeable. As most sexual connections start on the streets, men have to be well aware of the way they enter them because many eyes pry on their activities and reputations. If there is indeed a clear divide between passive and active roles, this will hinder the spread of aids.
Onderzoeksplan en methode: zie de hoofdtekst. In the first place, the available literature will be sorted out (Schmitt 1995). Special attention will be given to sexual border traffic as it seems to be exten- sive, but could well be on the decline because of growing knowledge of homo- sexuality and anti-western sentiments.
Like in many big cities cruising areas and especially parks are where gay people should be very careful and selective with the people they meet. These places are discovered by some bad guys and pick-pockets who are always around in such places for robbing gay men rather than having sex with them. Especially be careful if the person you meet proposes you to have sex in isolated outside places. We recommend you not to carry your valuable things with you when you go to such cruising places, just in case.
GAY CRUISING AREAS OF ISTANBUL :
Taksim Park get cruisy after dark. Be very selective with the people you meet here.
Istiklal Caddesi Two-kilometer long pedestrian street/avenue starting from Taksim square and ending in Tunel (the short historical metro), which is always busy with people. The street also connects Taksim square to the most of the gay venues located on the smaller streets crossing it, and you can see many gay and related people on your way.
Taksim Park The park at the upper part of Taksim Mc Donald’s, near Taksim Square. The part of the park closer to the sea-side is more cruisy especially in the evenings. It is busier on Sundays and Saturday evenings. It is not recommended to foreigners and new comers for safety reasons.
Visitor comment about Taksim Park near Ritz Carlton hotel in Istanbul: ‘I have been first taken in the park below Taksim Square near Ritz Carlton Hotel by an attractive man who approached me in Taksim Square and then when we were in the park I’ve been attacked by him and other 2 men hiding among bushes and stolen my money, mobile, watch, credit cards and driving license. My identity card was destroyed. Terrible experience.’ (Posted by Carlo from Italy on 08/09/2009
Taksim Square People sitting around the monument at the very center of the square may be interested in meeting gay people, but remember it is also a gathering place for some pick pockets as well as female, transvestite and even male prostitutes.
“I was there and looking to the Monument and somebody finger me and we enjoyed the night together.” (Posted by Graham/UK on 09/07/2009)
“Once I found one really great guy- we went to another park- dark place, and he wanted money from me- when I didn’t give it to him, he attacked me ” (Posted by Paul on 01 November 2009)
Sultanahmet Park Especially the small park behind the Sultanahmet tramcar station in the evenings. Sultanahmet is the famous tourist town of Istanbul and the parks are also comparatively safer, but there is not a very visible gay scene.
Ortakoy coast is busy in Summer.
Same-named mosque is the symbol of Ortakoy. You can see the bridge connecting Europe and Asia continents behind the mosque.
Ortakoy Coast. Once a small fishing town, Ortakoy recently became popular with bars, restaurants, cafeterias creating a summer resort atmosphere within the city. It is near major Besiktas town along the Bosporus Straight. The coastal area around the Ortakoy Mosque is very busy and there’s a vibrant night life in summer time, especially busy during the day on Sundays. 10-15 minute ride away from Taksim with a taxi but it may take much longer during rush hours. You can also use public buses that follows the coastal route from Eminonu, Karakoy and Taksim going to Sariyer, Bebek etc.
Kadikoy Park and Coast The coast and parks near Kadikoy’s Besiktas Iskelesi (the old ferryboat station). Kadikoy is the major town of Anatolian (Asian) part of Istanbul and there are ferryboats from Karakoy and Eminonu and Besiktas about every half an hour running until around 23:00. Although the park and the coast around breakwater can get very cruisy in the evenings, Kadikoy has less liberal atmosphere with respect to Taksim. For that reason please make sure the person you meet is really interested.
Fatih Park The park at Sarachane district near Fatih town. It is very close to the administration building of Istanbul Municipality (Istanbul Belediyesi). This is the most risky cruising place. Be careful with people you meet here and make sure not to carry your valuable things with you, because there are always some pick-pockets around. (Stop at Sarachane bus-stop when you go to Aksaray from Taksim)