At the beginning of each summer, the Penn Glee Club packs its bags and embarks on a performance tour, with past destinations including anywhere from Seattle and San Francisco to Japan, Iceland and the Soviet Union. This year, we headed towards the Middle East and Africa. Thanks to the efforts of Kyle Andrews (E ’09), we were able to fly in style with Qatar Airways to three amazing locations – Doha (Qatar), Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)!
For two weeks, we traveled from city to city/town/desert/lodge, sharing our love of music and performance with everyone we met. We sang classics like Country Roads, tapped to Broadway numbers and danced to the Backstreet Boys. The concert at the International School of Moshi, a small town in Tanzania, was one of our most memorable. Held to raise funds for their scholarship program, it drew a crowd of nearly 300 students, teachers, family and friends, who squeezed into the auditorium, sitting on plastic outdoor chairs and warding off the heat with ceiling fans. Despite the nearly unbearable heat backstage, we stayed in our trademark navy jackets and red-and-blue ties and sang our hearts out to a wildly cheering crowd. After the concert, many an excited fan would come up to Glee Clubbers requesting autographs on an assortment of objects, from notebooks to random scraps of paper. It was also at this concert on the fifth day of the tour that we sold out of our entire stock of CDs and merchandise.
One singer nearly collapsed during the ordeal. It was only later that we realized he had eaten something disagreeable whilst in Moshi. He survived most of the concert, but as our school bus pulled out of the school’s parking lot, he entertained the waving schoolchildren with a final display of projectile vomiting out of the side of the bus. Showcase.
When we weren’t singing, we found time to explore our fascinating new environments, often thanks to generous Penn alumni including Salman Al-Ansari and Navin Valrani. Whilst in Doha, we loaded up into 4x4s and headed into the desert for an afternoon of dune bashing, essentially a freeform roller coaster experience through desert sand dunes.
In Arusha, we scheduled a day trip to the Tarangire safari park, where we got up close and personal with multitude of indigenous animals, from the well-known African elephants, lions and baboons to the exotic Impala deer, dik-dik, warthogs, ostrich, and vultures. As we were leaving the safari for the day, we stumbled across a herd of magnificent giraffe grazing. In Moshi, we spent the evenings on the roof of our motel, with picturesque views of Mt Kilimanjaro in the background. The experience was almost surreal.
It would be remiss to leave out the final destination of our trip – Dubai. The most populous city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is a city of the “world’s biggest”, boasting the world’s biggest harbor (Port of Jebel Ali), the world’s largest shopping mall (Dubai Mall), and the world’s tallest tower (the Burj Khalifa). Many Clubbers couldn’t resist the experience of skiing in a mall. We had the privilege of performing on the stage of the American School of Dubai’s main auditorium, which was larger and more impressive than even some Broadway stages. After the concert, we were pleasantly surprised when Cathy Leibman came up and invited the Glee Club to spend the next day at the Atlantis Dubai, all expenses paid! Needless to say, we accepted the invitation without hesitation and proceeded to spend the following morning thoroughly enjoying the resort and the many water slides, one of which would even send you flying through a shark tank.
We are so thankful to our alumni, family and friends who made the trip possible, allowing us to witness beautiful sights, undergo some crazy experiences, and to share our love of music with people in Tanzania, Doha and Dubai. Most of all, we got to travel with our brothers in song. The experience was an unforgettable one.