Nothing could have shattered my preconception of the Arab woman faster than a sight that caught my eye not an hour after I first touched down in the Arab world. Driving in from Beirut airport along the coast I saw a young girl on a horse galloping along the wind-swept beach. She was blond, blue-jeaned, barefooted and, I learned later, Muslim. In the following weeks I learned that wholesome, vibrant, suntanned women at play are by no means rare any more in the Middle East. While Lebanon, with its cool mountain resorts, its miles of seashore and its swinging discotheques, is still the playground of the Arab world, even such conservative cities as Damascus and Baghdad offer facilities for men and women to play tennis, ride and swim, and it is not at all surprising to see a woman driving a golf ball down a fairway in Cairo or hoisting a sail in Jordan's Gulf of Aqaba.