Everything you've been hearing about those outrageous Arabs turns out, on this tour of inspection, to be an understatement. Big Brother Saudi Arabia, for starters, is the dissolute Nassau of the Seventies. Puritan and dissolute, developing helter-skelter and trying--futilely?--""to maintain the religious and moral values of Islam."" London Observer reporter Blandford, who gained access to Arabdom by proposing to explode stereotypes (as well as concealing her Jewish identity), raises critical issues, but only incidentally; her encounters with key figures dissolve in the stream of prattle about vainglorious men and frustrated women (""Sex matters, because there's so little else to think about or do""); about tasteless decor, daily shopping sprees, and chic clothes taboo out-of-doors. Not that Linda Blandford doesn't like the Arabs: their warmth and hospitality remind her of her Orthodox Jewish childhood. Moving on--without changing pace--she visits Bahrein, ""the only place anywhere around that isn't crazy in some way"" and a prospective service center when the oil runs out; Kuwait, where the Palestinian minority, all second-class citizens, are the ones who ""make things work""; Qatar, ""a sandpit"" ruled by a would-be Napoleon; and the seven curious little sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates. Oversize characters, petty gossip, and an occasional glimpse of approaching enlightenment.