Now, firstly, before you read this. No, we are not selling Syria as the new Mykonos, San Francisco or Sydney, however in our experience we have found that Syria and the people there are surprisingly liberal, and it’s a lot easier to travel there as a gay person than you might expect.
The Middle East is often thought of as a place of extreme conservatism and sexual repression and largely that’s not entirely wrong, however there are some areas that stand out as being way more open than others. Tel Aviv is an obvious choice, as is Beirut in Lebanon, but we also see Damascus as a destination that is safe for gay travellers.
Again, let us preface, this is not saying that you should adorn yourself with pride flags or show overt displays of public affection. But if you were to strike up conversation with a young Syrian or one of your local guides and if you were to let it slip you had a same-sex partner they’d probably not even skip a beat. We’ve had this happen on several tours before and the response is usually “ok yeah, so what?”.
In fact, there have even been situations where the local Syrians have gone to enquire about the local underground gay bars. Yes, that’s right, there are gay bars in Damascus. Just like everywhere else in the world gay people still exist here, be it in an underground nature (like most of Africa, Asia and even parts of Europe). Is the situation ideal for them? Hardly. Does life still go on? Always.
Could it be dangerous for gay travellers? Well yes and no. Yes, because if you were to go to Damascus covered in glitter and openly promoting LGBTQ+ rights to random locals, you would most likely come into some serious opposition. And no, because well, in our experience we have witnessed first-hand, gay customers talking with our local Syrian guides about this exact issue and our local guides have been nothing but open and accepting.
The openness about the Syrian people is one of the aspects of traveling to the country that we find so enticing. Don’t believe us because the only image of Syria you have in your head has been broadcast from a mainstream media service? Come and find out for yourself on one of our trips to Syria , where we explore amazing sites with our own SAIGA difference!