camelCamels are ponderous-looking ­creatures but surprisingly fast when you are on top of one charging up and down a field at the Dubai Polo Club

“Hit it, hit it, sir, hit it…” yelled my camel jockey, Sajid.

There followed some mutterings in Arabic – undoubtedly naughty words – as I completely missed the ball with another wild swing of my mallet.

This was camel polo in the Dubai desert, a thrilling, nerve-racking and sometimes downright bonkers sport played at high speed, and I, incredibly, found myself playing it.

I had been kitted out in a polo shirt and helmet, given some instruction on how to play and then two teams were selected to take part in a competitive match.

The camels have two-person saddles with the jockey doing the “steering” at the front while you sit at the back and try to hit the ball.

Our team lost 2-1 but I must admit there were times when the score became a bit of an irrelevance as I focused on just hanging on to the lumbering beast as it twisted and turned from left to right.

Camels are ponderous-looking ­creatures but surprisingly fast when you are on top of one charging up and down a field at the Dubai Polo Club.

Next up on our adventure-themed trip to the Emirate was a seaplane flight over the city, with Seawings.

We boarded at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and from the air you get a real understanding of this remarkable place.

In the early 1960s Dubai was a small Persian Gulf trading port.

Now it is a vast gleaming metropolis with luxury hotels, a la carte restaurants and high-end shopping malls.

Our flight took us along the coast to marvel at some of the engineering miracles of the city such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 2,722ft, and the Palm Jumeirah – a man-made archipelago of luxury hotels and homes which has appeared like magic out of the sea.

And from this lofty position you can clearly see where the city abruptly ends and the desert proper begins.

The trip is probably not for the nervous flyer as there are some steep turns involved, though the take off and landing from the creek was surprisingly smooth.

In fact the landing at Dubai airport in the giant Emirates Airbus A380 double-decker superjumbo the day before was bumpier.

Our feet were soon back on the ground for a city tour.

Our guide took us to the older Deira part of Dubai next to the creek with its more traditional buildings.

We passed the Majlis Al Areesh meeting area, where local men hang out and drink hot sweet tea or Arabic coffee while smoking waterpipes and were invited in for a cup of their strong, aromatic and welcoming coffee.

Camels are ponderous-looking ­creatures but surprisingly fast when you are on top of one charging up and down a field at the Dubai Polo Club

Strange ride: This was camel polo in the Dubai desert
“Hit it, hit it, sir, hit it…” yelled my camel jockey, Sajid.

There followed some mutterings in Arabic – undoubtedly naughty words – as I completely missed the ball with another wild swing of my mallet.

This was camel polo in the Dubai desert, a thrilling, nerve-racking and sometimes downright bonkers sport played at high speed, and I, incredibly, found myself playing it.

I had been kitted out in a polo shirt and helmet, given some instruction on how to play and then two teams were selected to take part in a competitive match.

The camels have two-person saddles with the jockey doing the “steering” at the front while you sit at the back and try to hit the ball.

Our team lost 2-1 but I must admit there were times when the score became a bit of an irrelevance as I focused on just hanging on to the lumbering beast as it twisted and turned from left to right.

Camels are ponderous-looking ­creatures but surprisingly fast when you are on top of one charging up and down a field at the Dubai Polo Club.

High points: Dubai skyline
Next up on our adventure-themed trip to the Emirate was a seaplane flight over the city, with Seawings.

We boarded at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and from the air you get a real understanding of this remarkable place.

In the early 1960s Dubai was a small Persian Gulf trading port.

Now it is a vast gleaming metropolis with luxury hotels, a la carte restaurants and high-end shopping malls.

Our flight took us along the coast to marvel at some of the engineering miracles of the city such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 2,722ft, and the Palm Jumeirah – a man-made archipelago of luxury hotels and homes which has appeared like magic out of the sea.

And from this lofty position you can clearly see where the city abruptly ends and the desert proper begins.

The trip is probably not for the nervous flyer as there are some steep turns involved, though the take off and landing from the creek was surprisingly smooth.

In fact the landing at Dubai airport in the giant Emirates Airbus A380 double-decker superjumbo the day before was bumpier.

Our feet were soon back on the ground for a city tour.

Our guide took us to the older Deira part of Dubai next to the creek with its more traditional buildings.

We passed the Majlis Al Areesh meeting area, where local men hang out and drink hot sweet tea or Arabic coffee while smoking waterpipes and were invited in for a cup of their strong, aromatic and welcoming coffee.

After a pleasant hour of chatting we left our new friends and jumped on a water taxi over the creek for a look at the gold souk.

Our base was the JA Oasis Beach Tower which is in the heart of “new Dubai”.

There is a public beach a stroll away plus a dazzling array of restaurants and shops on the doorstep.

Because the Oasis offers accommodation in self-catering apartments with a fully equipped kitchen you don’t have to eat out – you can enjoy a meal on your balcony with a view overlooking Palm Jumeirah.

The highlight of my trip was undoubtedly the desert safari run by Platinum Heritage. Billed as a Bedouin experience, it didn’t disappoint.

We were picked up from our hotel and driven out of the city for an hour to the desert, then transferred to an ancient open-topped Land Rover where our guide drove us off to see a falcon show.

Falcons are a key part of Emirati culture and falcon racing is big ­business, with competitions offering many thousands of dollars worth of prizes. A good racing bird is worth a small fortune.

From the show we headed off to our accommodation for the night – a collection of Bedouin tents.

We had a traditional Arabic meal of lamb, slow cooked in palm leaves, chicken skewers served with yoghurt, and stewed camel meat.

I felt a bit guilty scoffing the camel after my polo experience, but it was delicious.

We sat around a roaring camp fire and watched some traditional dancing.

Be warned – it can get surprisingly chilly in the desert at night so take a fleece or jumper.

The dancing was amazing but it could not compete with the best ­spectacle of the night – a vast velvet-black sky full of stars.

Next morning after a breakfast of traditional pancakes we were taken back into the desert to have a go at driving dune buggies.

Very noisy, fast, potentially dangerous in reckless hands but, my word, what fantastic fun.

I want to do that again… now.

Residents at the Oasis Beach Tower are allowed to use the beach and watersports facilities at the sister hotel the JA Jebel Ali Beach Resort, so from our desert safari we went there for an hour’s windsurfing lesson with a young and patient instructor from the Watercooled Watersports centre.

We ate in some fabulous restaurants in Dubai.

My favourite was the The Rib Room at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray resort on the Palm. It was newly opened and quite frankly, decadent.

It is expensive but if you are looking for somewhere for a special occasion you won’t be disappointed.

While we were in town the annual Rugby Sevens tournament was on. As big sport fans we went along to join the family-friendly party.

The England team did what England teams usually do and lost in the semi-final.

Maybe there should be an England camel polo team. Or maybe not.

That could really give the nation the hump.

Get there
Apartments at the JA Oasis Beach Tower start at £255pn r/o based on 2 sharing. jaresortshotels.com
Emirates flies to Dubai from Heathrow from £361 return and from Glasgow from £383. Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham departures also available. emirates.com
Seawings Dubai Creek Silver seaplane tour £290pp. seawings.ae
City tours from £26pp. arabian-adventures.com
Camel polo £120pp. gulfventures.com
Heritage Overnight Safari and Breakfast with a Bedouin Experience £155pp. platinum-heritage.com
Dubai Rugby 7s tickets from £72pp. dubairugby7s.com
Tourist info: dubaitourism.ae

Timezone: UK + 3hrs

Currency: Dirham £1 = 5.49

Best time to go: All-action break autumn to spring

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http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/usa-long-haul/dubai-just-place-action-packed-break-5450097