Sunday, July 25, 2010

Make Money in the Third World Part 4: Snake Charming

Howtomakeadollar is running a series of blogs about real-life businesses that we've encountered in poverty stricken nations around the world. In these countries people are very innovative and find all kinds of unique ways to make money. To read the whole series, click here.

The snake chamer - In the U.S. we have very few open markets. Occasionally a farmers market may open in a town, but this is usually only for a few weekends per year, and it is limited to locally grown foods. In the third world there are enormous markets full of individual stands selling pretty much anything you can imagine, not just food. India and many Arab countries are particularly famous for their open markets where you can test your bartering skills and hunt for good deals on stuff.
One cool thing that you can find in most open markets in India, the Middle East, and North Africa are snake charmers. Real-life snake charming is a high risk job. Its a guy with a little flute instrument who will sit down in front of a basket with a cobra or two in it. As he plays, the cobra will slowly come out and stare at him playing, and will eventually start to sway with the music... If he's lucky.
In reality, the cobras will sometimes just slither out of the bag and try to get away. Occasionally they attack the charmer, or onlookers. Its not exactly a safe job. But if you have good snake handling skills and a net with a long pole you can usually scoop your cobra back up before it gets away or eats a little kid. Charmers who try to do more than one cobra at a time are really cool to watch, but you should stay back a good distance, because cobras can spit their poison pretty far, and they aim for your eyes, which will blind you, or at least cause major damage to your eyes. This is why most snake charmers have such weird looking eyes, or keep them closed. Many of them are blind in at least one eye.

Usually these snake charmers will just sit down in the middle of the market, and once people see what is going on, they clear out of the way, leaving a nice open area around the snake and the charmer. The snake charmer always has an assistant or two who stand around scanning the crowd of onlookers. They will approach anyone who looks at the snake charmer and charge them money for watching. If you are walking past and even glance at the spectacle, you can bet that someone is going to run after you and demand money. They are extremely pushy, and will grab you by the arm and yell at you to pay up. You should pay them about 1/4 of what they ask, but you should pay them, because thats how they make a living. Also, they have cobras that may or may not attack you if they play a certain note. In any case, its really cool to watch, and once you've paid they will leave you alone.

If you take a picture they will charge you more money, or they will grab your camera and delete it. (really). I don't know what they would do if you have a film camera, but you should pay them and not worry about it.

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