Our founder and namesake, Hanns Ebensten passed away on Monday, July 24, 2006 from an unexpected bout of pneumonia. From his first trip down the Nile at age six, when he sat on the knee of the famous Aga Khan, to the days before his death as he planned his next journey to explore the remote areas of the Sinai Peninsula, Hanns Ebensten was the epitome of exploration and wanderlust.
His love for travel led him to create the first organized trip for gay men in 1972, earning him the moniker of “Inventor of Gay Travel.” In 2004, the IGLTA (International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association) named him the Pioneer of Gay Travel and honored him by renaming their annual citation of excellence as the “Hanns Ebensten IGLTA Hall of Fame Award.”
But Mr. Ebensten was never enamored of awards and accolades, and he prided himself on his accomplishments in exploration, entrepreneurship and literature. He was the author of eight books, the last of which, Egypt in My Blood, was published just weeks before his death. Mr. Ebensten, a rare and opinionated individual, was a stickler for precision, hence the following obituary he penned himself:
November 28, 1923 to July 24, 2006
After having survived the German holocaust and World War II in the British Army, Mr. Ebensten roamed and explored in isolated and remote places all over the world and became particularly familiar with the Arab countries whose traditions, customs, and religion he greatly admired. He stayed with Bedouin tribes in the Sinai, explored the oasis of Siwa in Egypt’s Western Desert, prayed with the monks at Mount Athos, and climbed Mount Olympus in Greece and Huang Shan in China. In the high Andes he discovered the ruins of ancient cities, and crossed Greenland by dog sledge, and Easter Island on horseback. Since 1977, he had found peace and quiet in his small house on a shady lane in Key West, sustained by his 41-year committed friendship with his partner, the late Brian Kenny.
Mr. Ebensten never owned or drove a car and walked everywhere around Key West wearing his formal white suit and black tie and his ubiquitous boater hat. He was a life long Member of the Royal Geographical Society.