Why without a map? Because Saddam Hussein has banned them from his Orwellian police state, one of the dozen or so Middle Eastern countries that Horwitz explores in this witty, on-target travel book. Thank goodness, not all of Arabia is as frightening as Hussein's Iraq, which the author (who is Jewish, a fact that adds pepper to his adventures) likens to ""walking through the gates of a maximum security prison""--a sandy Alcatraz where kids are tortured, all phone calls are monitored, all travel controlled, and even weather reports are classified information. Horwitz, a London-based writer (One for the Road, 1988) and reporter for the Wall Street Journal, dearly likes most of the Middle East. He seems especially found of Yemen, a medieval leftover where women are veiled, and men, perpetually stoned on gat, are madly in love with weaponry (""It go bang, it go boom, we buy,"" says one). Thumbs up, too, for Egypt, despite its mad, churning streets, polluted air, and bribe-based economy. Horwitz also waltzes through the Arab Emirates, where he chews on camel (""it tastes like overcooked sandal""); Libya, where he encounters a rambling, dissipated Qaddafi; Israel, Khartoum, Sudan, and even Iran, where he and his wife attend Ayatollah Khomeini's funeral, by his estimate the largest gathering of humanity ever. In a scary, tacked-on epilogue, he returns to Baghdad after the invasion of Kuwait, and finds a ""paranoid and thuggish"" nation still in the grip of the cult of Hussein. Exciting, funny, and informative--also timely, given the headlines.