Thousands of bare-chested muscular men, colorful drag queens and others are partying at Tel Aviv's annual gay pride parade, the largest event of its kind in the Middle East.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said well over 100,000 people are participating in Friday's event, while Israeli media put the number at 180,000. The event drew thousands of people from around the world.

A man dressed in a big white bow tie who gave his name as Matteo Zakari visited from Poland. He said "the people are amazing, the weather is amazing, I love Tel Aviv."

Israel has emerged as one of the world's most gay-friendly travel destinations in recent years, in sharp contrast to the rest of the region where gay culture is not tolerated and gays are targeted.