Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Contractor employees living in Arabia or Muslim countries, in compounds: how does gay life work?

A personal conversation last night with someone who had worked in Saudi Arabia and other Arabian countries as a contractor gave me an idea of how gay life goes in the Middle East. And it’s definitely “don’t ask don’t tell”, even in more moderate countries like Oman or Abu Dhabi.

Arab countries don’t have gay bars as such, and in many areas alcohol is not allowed.  In places like Dubai, alcohol is available to non Muslims in hotel bars and private clubs (for example, here).

In many places, I’m told, young foreign nationals accumulate to be “picked up”.  A lot goes on, but no one talks about it. The same is true on “compounds”.

The hostility of Islam to homosexuality (in men) is well known, which may be ironic because of the polygamy in some Muslim societies (leaving some men without the opportunity to have women). There is a cultural norm that says sons must protect the honor of their father (that is, the marital relations which the sons did not choose).  

There is an earlier posting about gay life in Saudi Arabia on the GLBT blog, April 15, 2007, based on an Atlantic story.

There is a lot of material on the web about compound life in Saudi Arabia for foreign employees of large contractors.


There are references that explain the difficulties and expense of moving into a compound, here. That would sound like an employer responsibility.

Back in 1980, I was told by someone who had worked in Saudi Arabia that religious police did come onto compounds to check for alcohol.  That may not be happening now.  

Picture: Tanzania House (apparently the embassy itself), 22nd St, Washington DC

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