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.
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.
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.
However it does mean 16 or 17 hours straight on a plane, so taking a break before making the final push to your European destination is appealing.
I had this idea of Dubai as a venal monstrosity rising incongruously out of the desert, a place where foreigners regularly run foul of restrictive local laws governing alcohol and relations with the opposite sex.
Ever since Emirates launched its new direct flights from Auckland to Dubai in March, the UAE's largest city has been much in the local travel news.It will not have escaped your notice that New Zealand is a long way from anywhere, thus any service that can knock a few hours off the tiresome haul to the northern hemisphere is welcome.READ MORE:* Dubai's Burj Khalifa builder plans even taller tower* New Emirates Dubai-Auckland service a boon for Kiwis* Dubai pushes the pedal to the metal on driverless cars Dubai is a manufactured construct, but it is also an accessible and attractive city that, apart from the absence of rowdy bars and the advisability of dressing semi-respectably, is perfectly welcoming to Western visitors. There are no casinos or touts handing out girlie cards, but there are dancing fountains and streets lined with fairy light-encrusted palm trees. Its so-called towering monuments – such as the narrow office building designed with more than a nod to Big Ben, the tower on a lean, another which looks like a giant piece of orange peel – are architectural curiosities, not tacky replicas.With a population of 2.4 million, Dubai is not a great deal bigger than Auckland, and feels easy to get around.It's best to deal directly with Emirates here in New Zealand or use a travel agent.
Dubai is set up for the stopover tourist, and easy entertainment abounds. Take a desert tour Despite its irrigated gardens, the fact is Dubai is built on a pile of sand, and you don't have to go far to experience its true desert environs.