The Palace of the Magic Kingdom

The entrance to Sheikh Mohammed's palace. (Photo Credit: Michele MacDonald)All the small sign stationed on one of Dubai's whirling traffic roundabouts says is "private access." There are no gates, no fences at the sign-nothing visible to designate that this place is anything special.

Yet anyone who looks out his car window can see that what lies down a long driveway lined with palm trees and lush avenues of grass is something extraordinary.

Indeed, it is one of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum's palaces. If a person looks closely while passing through the roundabout, he can see a signatory mark of Sheikh Mohammed atop an arched stone entrance to the compound-five tremendous bronze statues of horses running, seemingly ready to leap across the horizon.

Although Sheikh Mohammed is one of the world's most dynamic leaders and wealthiest individuals, there is no barrier and one can enter the driveway for a closer look. Peacocks stroll in the grass and call shrilly to each other, and sparkling fountains are visible in the courtyard beyond the archway.

A few armed guards can be seen in the distance but they do not question the curious.

Nearby, a herd of endangered Arabian oryx stroll through their own private desert compound adjoining the palace buildings, their long black horns punctuating their forms against the sand, visible even to the rapidly passing motorist.

This is the epicenter of Dubai's magic kingdom.

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