For many LGBTI travelers, certain countries are simply out of bounds.
While some avoid the around 80 countries where homosexuality is illegal on safety grounds, some (but, of course, not all) choose to boycott for political reasons. The same can apply to countries where homosexuality is legal, albeit frowned upon.
But that’s not to say they wouldn’t be worth visiting if the state of play were different. Some countries are so behind on LGBTI equality, and yet at the cutting edge in other realms, such as architecture. Here, we count down eight such examples.
1 Tornado Tower, Qatar
Doha’s 52-storey structure stands at 195m tall, and opened in 2008. It provides 58,029 sq m of office space, and its light show boasts 35,000 different combinations. Gay sex is punishable by up to five years in prison in Qatar.
2 Mercury City Tower, Russia
At 339m, the pink-hued Mercury City Tower in Moscow (pictured above, left) is 33m taller than The Shard in London. It has 75 floors, including five below ground. Homosexuality is legal in Russia, but following the implementation of the ‘gay propaganda law’ in 2013, life has become more difficult for LGBTIs.
3 Krzywy Domek, Poland
Translating to ‘crooked house’, this building was built in Sopot in 2004. It covers 4,000 sq m, and features a similarly crooked and surreal interior. Although same-sex activity is legal in Poland, societal attitudes remain difficult.
4 Burj Khalifa, UAE
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is a mind-boggling 828m tall (830m to the tip) – making it the tallest building in the world. It opened in January 2010. Homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and is punishable by death.
5 Burj Al Arab, UAE
At 321m tall, the luxurious Burj Al Arab in Dubai is the world’s tallest building used solely as a hotel, and opened in 1999. It stands on its own artificial island 280m from the shore.
6 Heydar Aliyev Center, Azerbaijan
Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid’s won the Design Museum’s 2014 Design of the Year award for this huge cultural center in Baku, which was constructed between 2007 and 2012. Homosexuality is legal in Azerbaijan, but there are no legal protections for LGBTIs; in 2014, an engaged gay couple were forced to flee the country after receiving death threats.
7 Lotus Temple, India
The flower-like Lotus Temple in Delhi was opened in 1986, and is 34m tall. It has 27 freestanding marble petals. LGBTIs face life imprisonment in India; however, last month, the country’s Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition on legalizing gay sex.
8 Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is Singapore’s largest hotel, and the sixth largest in Asia, with 55 floors, 2561 rooms, and an outdoor pool 198m in the air. Sex between two men is illegal in Singapore, and punishable by up to two years in prison although there is a small, active and visible LGBTI scene.