Numerous daily tours to a nature reserve 30 minutes from the city give visitors a desert sampler, including a falconry display, a belly dancing show, and speed dating with a camel.
You get to pick your location and conditions – London by night, Hong Kong in the rain – and the sensation is frighteningly real.Miraculously, I didn't crash the plane as I attempted the skillful sharp right turn through high-rise buildings to land at the old Hong Kong airport.5.As night falls the drivers pull up to a Bedouin-style camp where plush Middle Eastern carpets and cushions provide seating while a barbecue sizzles.Alongside the Landcruisers camels wait to give the tourists a quick spin around the car park.It's a diverting place to stop for a day or two, and Emirates offers 24-hour packages that allow passengers to check into a hotel as soon as they arrive – a boon for Kiwi travellers given EK449 from Auckland arrives at 5.30am.
One warning: the Kiwi stopover service is new and the Emirates call centre denied all knowledge of it when I tried later to make a personal travel booking.
Despite their skill, the drivers get stuck – you'd think the problem would be the dips, but the real trap is bottoming out on the top of a dune.
Surprisingly there is wildlife, including native sand giselles and Arabian oryx.
Dubai's skyscrapers and the man-made waterways of the Souk Al-Bahar shopping district look like something out of a science fiction film director's imagination.
Kiwis can feel a certain puff of national pride that the director of the ambitious project was New Zealander Greg Sang.
Watch the dancing fountains and Burj Khalifa light show Splash out and book a table on the terrace at one of the restaurants overlooking the lake at Souk Al-Bahar, and get a ringside seat for the half-hourly dancing fountains.