Boys will be Boys: Stories from Lebanon, Syria & Pakistan
I have travelled around the world at least four times in my life so far, and have met many people and enjoyed many experiences along the way. Although cultures, religious beliefs, different politics and a plethora of many possible options could occur which would attempt to “separate”, I believe that, in most cases, when guys bond closely together, there aren’t many boundaries any longer and as the two sayings have it, ” people are people,” and, in many cases, “boys will be boys.” I personally concur most on the boys will be boys bit.
I stayed in a Beirut Christian neighbourhood called “Ashrafieh” with my Lebanese friend who was of the Druze faith. We all piled into a car with his Christian boyfriend and also with two Muslim guys, one who was a true “diva”, and went to a beach in South Lebanon, not far from the border with Israel, in Hesbollah controlled lands. We enjoyed and laughed together like a boy family. We reached a road check where there were two handsome guards who demanded our IDs. All around us were Hesbollah flags and also Iranian flags. Posters of Ayatollah looking guys, and Hassan Nusrallah were pasted in prominent places.
Imagine the faces of the two handsome guards as a bunch of guys dressed ready for the beach, and a “diva” all sashaying out of the car, each showing some kind of ID, (until my “Hawaii” ID was shown which I knew he couldn’t read). Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our swim, as ostentatious at times, as our “diva” had a bath towel around his head and had a collection of “Clinique” products lined up on the beach table, spraying and trying them out on us.
Due to the character of Lebanon with all the precarious political, geographical and social digressions which keep the region rather unstable, the people have, in my feeling, a fatalistic attitude in which they try to live their lives to the fullest; no matter what had happened in the past, nor what might be happening at the moment, nor what might possibly happen in the future. I also embrace this attitude myself which, I suppose, makes me feel a bit Lebanese myself.
Some years ago, I took a Turkish bus from Istanbul through Turkey to the Syrian capital Damascus. I was going to stay with my Syrian friend Abdul at his family’s private home. I met on the bus along the way two Jordanian guys who were also travelling to Damascus and later back home. Arriving in Damascus at 0300 in the morning, we all rented a flat for the day and night. I vividly recall the posters of Ayatollah Khomeini pasted on the walls and graffiti which read, “we will cut off the hand that feeds Israel” (the hand being the USA). I recall enjoying with my Jordanian friends the best tasting falafel ever, and wandering around the old city. The next morning my Jordanian friends continued the journey home and I went to see my friend Abdul. He lived in a traditional Syrian home and I experienced wonderful hospitality, as well as meeting his friends who lived in the small winding back alley ways where small shops were also hidden. When night came and it was time to go to sleep, we all climbed in and all shared one bed together. I remember so vividly how comforting and wonderful that experience was, just to have guys on each side of me in bed that I slept very well.
Unfortunately, Syria is currently experiencing horrible civil unrest and destruction. My heart aches badly for Syria and Syrian people. I wonder what my friend Abdul’s life is like now and if he is safe. I pray that peace will come to Syria and that the Syrian people will be free—NOW!
When my friends came to know of my trip to Pakistan they warned me about an “eye opening experience”. They were absolutely correct! I was a guest of my Pakistani friend Hamid and stayed with him in the male part of his Pakistani home, where he was a gracious host. Together we went around on an adventure experiencing truly wonderful local food like “kulcha” and “chaat”—a savoury spicy pastry which is eaten in Chaat shops, dizzying rides around lively cities like Rawalpindi and Lahore which I love, and a mysterious feeling frontier town, Peshawar. Near Peshawar I saw the madrasa where the Taliban were training in, and I stayed in an ominous feeling hotel where there were only men, and shared a pepsi and conversation with an Afghan businessman and his very flirty male assistant.
An exciting evening in busy and lively Lahore, my friend and I shared a rickshaw where the driver’s skills were so awful that we felt like we were on a ride in an amusement park. Going at dizzing speeds and swerving each way, our rickshaw had a near hair-raising collision, with us sitting right at the front. I truly let out a loud scream which blended in with the rest of the din of other vehicles and city sounds as our rickshaw just missed hitting the one in front of us, with that passenger being a very handsome looking man smiling and laughing when seeing me scream. Flirting with us and us with him, he convinced my friend Hamid and I to stay overnight with him at his friends nursery school. It was the first time I ever negotiated a space with crayons and school tablets, having a guys slumber party together! I absolutely want to return and experience different regions of Pakistan to meet more beautiful and kind Pakistani guys again.
About the author
Jim is the author of Vagaybond.com. Vagaybond travel journeys show you the extraordinary lives of our gay community, their supportive family and friends with blog highlights about culture, food, drink and experiences that celebrate life.