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Conchita Wurst, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Join 180,000 At Tel Aviv Pride

Nearly 180,000 people participated in the 17th annual Tel Aviv Pride on Friday. The largest LGBT event in the Middle East, the festival highlighted trans rights with a theme of "Tel Aviv Loves All Genders."

The celebration started at 9am with a “happening” in Gan Meir Park, near the Tel Aviv Gay Center, with music and early-bird drag performances.

Related: Tens Of Thousands March In 2014 Tel Aviv Pride Parade

From there, revelers marched through the city down to the Mediterranean. Onlookers watched from balconies above, throwing water on the sun-soaked marchers, as Isreali flags and rainbow flags waved high and music blasted.

Mayor Ron Huldai welcomed the crowd "to the gay-friendliest city in the world," and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro marched with his daughter on his shoulders.

Related: Hebro Invades Evita Nightclub For Tel Aviv Pride

Truck beds with bronzed muscle men and drag queens slowly rolled down Ben Yehuda Street, as the sun beat down on celebrators. One of the floats featured huge cardboard cutouts and performers from the city's transgender community.

Related: 10 Pride Festivals You've Never Heard Of, But Should

The parade ended at the waterfront Clore Park, where performances went on through the night. Hosted by popular drag artist Uriel Yekutiel, the concert was headlined by Austria's Conchita Wurst, winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.

"There are just beautiful people here," Wurst told Israel's Channel 2 TV.

While the parade is a shining display of the fabulous gayness that cosmopolitan Tel Aviv offers the Middle East, gay leaders say Israel still has a way to go in promoting equality.

Israel still doesn't recognize marriage equality, primarily because there is no civil marriage. In the Palestinian territories, gays face persecution—including laws banning homosexuality in the West Bank and Gaza.

Check out the view at Tel Aviv Pride below


#TelAvivPride A photo posted by Alexander Kacala (@faymeproblems) on Jun 12, 2015 at 6:58am PDT