My friend Murat the clown’s frolicking at a Kazakh wedding in Thailand

15 февраля 2013, 14:23

Forget about the traditional ride in the stretch limousine after the wedding ceremony.

Adil and Ulpan got a ride on an elephant when they got married.

That’s because the Kazakh couple traveled to Thailand to marry.

My entertainer friend Murat Murturganov told me about the elephant ride and other unusual trappings of Adil and Ulpan’s wedding.

He ended up Thailand with the wedding entourage because Ulpan, whom he had known for a year, asked him to be master of ceremonies at the event.

Murat has become a mate since Andrew Auster, the headmaster of the Haileybury School in Astana, introduced me to him two years.

He is a lively, positive character, always enthusiastic, always on the move. In fact, he’s hard to keep up with, whatever the time of day.

The profession that the 28-year-old Murat became famous for is circus clown. You can learn more about that and other facets of his career and personal life by checking out his Web site at, his Facebook page at and his link at

He began doing clown routines on stage when he was 4. At 6, the International Children’s Festival of Circus Art in Verona, Italy, dubbed him “the youngest clown in the world.”

In 1996, Murat’s father Karim, the first Murturganov to achieve become a clown, decided to take the father-son act around the world. Murat was 12 at the time. His younger sister Karima joined the act later.

The exhilarating vagabond life lasted 11 years, with the Muturganovs returning to Kazakhstan in 2007.

But not before Murat had achieved idol status in parts of Western Europe.

He was such a heartthrob among preteen and early-teen girls in Italy that one day he found his performer’s trailer rocking back and forth to the screaming of young female fans.

Murat gets his photo taken with a young fan named Saule in the lobby of the Circus building in Astana. Photo courtesy of Murat Murturganov

Murat gets his photo taken with a young fan named Saule in the lobby of the Circus building in Astana. Photo courtesy of Murat Murturganov

The jostlers, chanting “Murat, Murat, Murat!,” were 12- and 13-year-old Italian girls demanding that their hero come out to meet them.

“There were big billboards with my face” in Italy, recalls Murat, who is still a clown but has branched into television-show hosting and singing. He also get tons of requests to perform at birthday parties, weddings and other special occasions.

Murat’s varied talents, including tap-dancing, have led to his becoming a celebrity in Kazakhstan as well as Europe.

Part of the fun of hanging out with him is seeing adoring fans rush up for an autograph or for their photo to be taken with him – requests he always honors.

But back to Adil and Ulpan’s wedding.

Murat told me the couple had two options for the same amount of money: Hold a wedding in Kazakhstan that would accommodate 300 or fly 40 family members and close friends to Thailand to get hitched.

“They’re not super-rich,” Murat said, “but, as you know, Kazakhs spend a lot of money on weddings even if they’re not rich.”

Adil and Ulpan decided that the exotic choice – Thailand – would be the most memorable.

So Murat and the other wedding-entourage members ended up getting five days on the beaches of the island resort of Samui.

The day of the wedding, he said, the party sat on chairs on the edge of the sea.

Murat stood below a floral arch to perform the marriage ceremony.

The groom stepped to the arch first. When the bride came, she was accompanied by eight graceful Thai dancers in traditional costumes.

Being the seasoned comedian that he is, Murat had some fun with the bride and groom.

“Are you willing to spend the rest of your life with this guy, even washing his socks?” he asked Ulpan.

“Are you ready to spend the rest of your life with this lady, putting up with her spending sprees in the malls?” he asked the groom.

When both said yes, he pronounced them married.

The newlyweds boarded an elephant for a ride alongside -- and into -- the ocean.

A dinner followed, with a Filipino band, a British deejay and the lighting of 30 Thai lamps whose flames shot meters into the sky.

“The lamps were very romantic,” underscoring the love story that was the reason for the occasion, Murat said.

I’m a hopeless romantic, so I really enjoyed Murat’s story.

Then my practical side reared its ugly head.

When I’m in a big American city, I always fret about how much to tip the taxi driver.

How on earth, I wondered, would I determine a tip for an elephant driver?

I’ll have to ask Murat’s advice on that the next time we meet.

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