Pub date June 14, 2006

Saudi Arabia is hilarious. Liquor is totally banned, clubbing is seriously frowned upon, and the government can kill you for even glancing at someone in a gay way. Last year more than 100 men there were tortured, publicly flogged, and imprisoned for “dancing and behaving like women” at a wedding. I love our Saudi allies!
Still, you can’t stop the party. Earlier this year in Europe I ran into “Ahmed,” a young Saudi gay man who works in the capital, Riyadh. I immediately asked him how he manages to hook up in such a place:
“Contrary to beliefs, Riyadh has a big social scene. It takes place in the hookah bars, where men get together to relax and smoke and talk, and the women are not there, of course. There are gatherings at people’s houses. And Saudis can be very fashionable and dress in a Western way. I myself find the traditional white thobe, or tunic, and thagiya headwear very comfortable. But then I started to go to the gym on my lunch hour, and it took half an hour to get dressed afterward, so I switched to jeans.
“To find other gays, you use your cell phone and Bluetooth technology. You can identify them when you walk into the hookah bar and log on to a certain IP address. If another person is registered at that address, you can see where they are in the room. This has become less common as people catch on, though.”
What about drag queens? “There are drag performances, usually held at houses. And yes, they do sometimes perform in the abaya, the black dress, and the boshiya, or facial veil. They often perform Madonna.”
So, does he have a lot of success meeting other gay men? “I find that many Saudi men are sexy, but many are uptight. Jordanian boys are easier.” (Marke B.)