An engaging memoir of seven years spent in the Middle East. As a child, Theroux was attracted to the area by such Hollywood epics as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Samson and Delilah. What he found during his stay as a reporter in Saudi Arabia was somewhat less romantic, but no less exotic. Starting his Middle Eastern sojourn as a graduate student of Arabic at the American Univ. in Cairo, the author soon found himself working for a newspaper in Saudi Arabia. There, he was thrown into contact not only with colorful Saudis but also with members of the American diplomatic and business community. He hints at various scandals within the Saudi royal family, examines the ambiguities and contradictions to be found within Saudi society, and comments on the effects of petrodollars on the economy. With lively wit and a sharp eye for personal idiosyncracies, Theroux draws memorable portraits of such figures as Faisal, a procurer who, during a particularly unrestrained conversation (""You think Khomeini is fuck?""), fingers his prayer beads. Then there is Libby, a gorgon of an embassy wife who sells tourist trinkets (""for no discernible charitable purpose"") to intimidated junior staff members. The book concludes with Theroux abandoning journalism and traveling to various cities, including Jerusalem and Damascus, exploring (for a book later published in England as The Strange Disappearance of Imam Moussa Sadr) the possible fate of Moussa Sadr, who vanished in Libya while on a mission for Iran. The author's respect and affection for the Arab world are apparent throughout; especially interesting in this regard is his scathing denunciation of Leon Uris' 1984 novel, The Haj. In sum: a lively, sometimes controversial, always intriguing personal reminiscence.