By PATRICK HEALY
THE pre-party began at 9 p.m. in Bertho Makso’s room at the Bella Riva Suite Hotel, and by 9:05 p.m. the air was awash in cologne, hair spray, cigarette smoke and gossip about the night ahead. Would a certain 20-something from West Beirut be at the beach party? Had the two men from Cairo arrived yet? Was the cute D.J. from Bardo, a gay bar here, going to be spinning? And did anyone need condoms?
The last question came from Bertho, a 28-year-old Lebanese tour operator who was the host of the main event that Thursday night in June: the Bear Arabia Mega Party, at the Oceana resort about 30 minutes south of Beirut. Scores of gay men — most of them “bears,” a term used the world over for heavyset, hairy guys usually older than 30 — were coming from across Lebanon and the Arab world, as well as Argentina, Italy, Mexico, the United States and elsewhere. Bertho had been picking them up at the Beirut airport since morning, and he looked exhausted as he handed out fistfuls of condoms to the dozen men in the room.
“So many questions today about what ‘gay Beirut’ is like,” he told me. “I’m just like, ‘Wait and see, you’ll like it, you’ll like it!’ ”
The New York Times reports on gay Beirut, ‘the Provincetown of the Middle East’
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