Undercover at the wedding of the century – Part 2

In the end, it wasn’t the 350 elephants that were the problem. (Reuters)

In the end, it wasn’t the 350 elephants that were the problem. (Reuters)


In the end, it wasn’t the 350 elephants that were the problem. And it wasn’t the tigers, either. It was the dancing girls.

I was deep undercover at the “wedding of the century”, here in Antalya, Turkey, posing as an under-assistant wedding planner.

The elephants came through a series of huge archways, a vast train of them, caparisoned in glittering colours.
At their head came the father of the groom, Mr Gobble, mounted on an especially large elephant hung with especially glittery colours. Immediately behind him came the bride, with a Mowgli of a mahout perched on her elly’s head to prod it forward.

And after her came the groom, bravely steering his own pachyderm (though, it must be said, the beast seemed extremely aged and docile) by means of what looked, from my vantage point at least, to be a Harry Potter™ magic wand.

That all went fine. As soon as the elephants had circled the coliseum thrice and drawn themselves up in a concave rank, the tigers were sent forth to cavort around them and pretend they were being hunted – or something. It was hard to see over the heads of the myriad guests craning this way and that to get a view of the action. Many wore turbans.

There were oohs and ahs, gasps of surprise and wonder, cheering and clapping, as well as some ululating from a troupe on a platform, under the banner of the South African department of arts and culture.

It was then, as I have discovered from a detailed forensic reconstruction of the events, that the dancing girls were sent into the performance space. There were about 1 500 of them, so one imagines some careful choreography was required.

As it happened, the tigers weren’t quite out of the arena before the dancing girls came whooshing in, each a national gold-medal-winner in the art of belly dancing. No, one last tiger, clearly a feisty old thing, made a quick swipe at the flowing veil of one dancer going past, just managing to snag it and give it a tug, before he was dragged off by his minder, Ahmed.

What the old cat’s claw caused, however, was an aberration in the revolutions of the belly dancer’s belly, which set off what we in the most exalted schools of investigative journalism call a reverberation effect. This effect, known to scientists since Copenhagen, made the belly dancers go into a radical-reverb state, which, amazingly enough, seemed to bother the elephants not at all, but caused the very walls and foundations of the massive hotel complex to shake as though it were sitting on the San Andreas fault.

It was chaos. I don’t know what happened to the bride or groom or their respective parents, but I saw someone who looked just like Fikile Mbalula crouching on the floor, trying to get a connection to tweet something, when a dust-covered matron sat on him, obviously thinking he was an ottoman.

And I saw someone losing a Diana Ross wig in the mêlée – was it, no, it couldn’t be … Malusi?

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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