Camel Riding in Dubai and Madinat Jumeirah

Though Dubai is often recognized as a burgeoning global economy with an infrastructure to match, it still has its touches of ancient charm. Case in point: the desert.

Not all of Dubai has been built up; the vast desert and its dunes still remain, and Dubai tourism has put it to good use.

On Friday, our group took to the desert in a souped up Jeep, as our driver floored it over the desert's landscape as we all held on for dear life....good times!

If that wasn't enough, we were given an even bigger treat: riding camels. OK, so it wasn't like Lawrence of Arabia, but we did get a nice 10 minutes on top of these curious animals, who, which amazed me, have hair the texture of a Brillo pad.

All of our activities were carried out by Lama Desert Tours, who equip you with a private driver.

Earlier in the day, we toured Madinat Jumeirah, another Jumeirah property adjacent to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This property is more expansive and divided into three hotels: Mina A'Salam, notable for its distinct Arabic architecture and great for families; Al Qasr, which is more elegant and upscale; and Dar Al Masyaf, known for its honeymoon crowd. The entire property is linked together through a man-made canal, giving it a quasi-Venice appeal, whereby guests get place-to-place via abras or water taxis.

The property also has an on-location souk or market, which, lo and behold, has a Starbucks and Cinnabon! For lunch, we dined at the hotel's most upscale restaurant, Pierchic, where our menu included wild seabass and a chocolate fondant that rivals any I've had before.

We were joined for lunch by Mina A'Salam's general manager, Richard Alexander, who told me how important travel agents are to Jumeirah and trumpeted the number of FAM trips they were offering.