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(photo credit: Associated Press)
CAIRO - In Egypt's premier Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, snake charmer Amier El Refaie puts some of the world's most dangerous snakes to sleep.
Refaie, who has been charming snakes for the past five years, says the reptiles have become closer to him than some of his human friends.
"The world of snakes is vast, the trainer must learn the secrets of hunting and capturing snakes ... if he is not knowledgeable he could be exposed to deadly venom at any moment," he said.
Refaie holds each snake by the tail and gently swings it back, forth and sideways to soft Indian music. Then he looks directly into its eyes before touching its head with his forehead and laying it on the ground.
The 29-year-old has more than 13 snakes and hopes that snake charming could become a growth industry in Egypt, where tourism is slowly picking up after years of downturn caused by political turmoil and attacks by Islamist militants.
Beaches and dive sites around Sharm el-Sheikh once attracted around one fourth of the tourists who visited Egypt before a 2011 uprising scared visitors away.
The tourism industry, one of the country's main sources of foreign currency, has gradually recovered in recent months, with revenues up about $1 billion in the first three months of 2018, a boon for thousands of workers like Refaie whose wages depend on the flow of visitors.
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"I hope Egypt can host international shows, where I will not be the only one doing this beautiful work ... It can attract more tourism still as I've seen in the last period how much visitors to Sharm El Sheikh love this show," Refaie said.
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