Egyptians have a somewhat schizophrenic attitude toward homosexuality. On the one hand, homosexuality is considered deviant and gay men are discriminated against; on the other hand, sexual relations between men are often ignored as harmless.
The upside of the situation is that gay men can enjoy a variety of casual sexual encounters with relative ease. The downside is that, once identified as a homosexual, a visitor may experience discrimination and face problems with the police.
Lesbians, meanwhile, have no public profile as a group, and there is no "scene" as such. Because of this, couples can hold hands in public -- this is what friends do in Egypt -- but any further display of affection is not recommended.
You should also be aware that the security services actively work against the gay community. Cases of entrapment followed by detention and torture are regularly documented by human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch. Websites such as www.gayegypt.com are routinely monitored by the security services, and chat groups are used to set up fake meetings.
Gay Egypt (www.gayegypt.com) details cruising locations in many of Egypt's main cities. Much of the information appears to be dated, but it should still provide some useful leads as well as still-relevant warnings of the dangers. The site www.arab-gay.com has an active travel section, and the more journalistically inclined Gay Middle East has an interesting Egypt section (www.gaymiddleeast.com/country/Egypt).
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) (tel. 800/448-8550 or 954/776-2626; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses and tour operators.
Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. Above and Beyond Tours (tel. 800/397-2681; www.abovebeyondtours.com) are gay Australia tour specialists. San Francisco-based Now, Voyager (tel. 800/255-6951; www.nowvoyager.com) offers worldwide trips and cruises, and Olivia (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com) offers lesbian cruises and resort vacations.
Gay.com Travel (tel. 800/929-2268 or 415/644-8044; www.gay.com/travel or www.outandabout.com), is an excellent online successor to the popular Out & About print magazine. It provides regularly updated information about gay-owned, gay-oriented, and gay-friendly lodging, dining, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping establishments in every important destination worldwide. British travelers should click on the "Travel" link at www.uk.gay.com for advice and gay-friendly trip ideas.
The Canadian website GayTraveler (www.gaytraveler.ca) offers ideas and advice for gay travel all over the world.
The following travel guides are available at many bookstores, or you can order them from any online bookseller: Spartacus International Gay Guide, 35th Edition (Bruno Gmünder Verlag; www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide); Odysseus: The International Gay Travel Planner, 17th Edition (www.odyusa.com); and the Damron guides (www.damron.com), with separate, annual books for gay men and lesbians.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.