Breakfast on Tuesday brought more of the same from the hotel buffet, but our special guest made for a memorable meal.

We had the privilege of dining with Farid Mohammed Ahmed, secretary general of Dubai World, the Dubai-based holding company for such ventures as Dubai Ports World, Dubai Customs, Economic Zones World, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, Drydocks World, Dubai Maritime City and Nakheel.

Yes, this is the group that made headlines in 2006 for attempting to purchase the management companies for six major U.S. ports. They currently control Dubai’s port and customs authority.

Locally, Dubai World is one of the UAE’s largest real estate investors and is probably best known worldwide for “The Palm” and “The World” island developments off Dubai’s coast. We toured “The Palm” via bus Monday.

Mr. Ahmed discussed the process by which these islands are created from dredged sand and other material from the Arabian Gulf. He described the origin of the Palm development as a means to expand Dubai’s coastline and told us the original plan was to create a sun shaped island with rays projecting outward from a central core. However, plans changed when a road was planned to connect the island with the mainland, throwing off the design. This led to the now familiar palm shaped design in which the connecting road is the stem of the palm with fronds extending to the sides.

Our discussion was shaped by some very informed questions from Paul and AJ, our delegation’s resident environmentalists. Mr. Ahmed defended the environmental impact of the man-made islands by describing the “positive” aspects of their work, including coral reef creation and fish farming.

While many of us remain concerned over the sustainability of Dubai World’s islands, the developments have attracted investors, resident and tourists from around the world and “The Palm” has become nearly synonymous with “Dubai.”