Customs officers at Cairo's airport on Thursday detained a man bound for Saudi Arabia who was trying to smuggle 700 live snakes on a plane, airport authorities said.

The officers were stunned when a passenger, identified as Yahia Rahim Tulba, after being asked to open his carry-on bag, told them it contained live snakes.

Tulba opened his bag to show the snakes to the police and asked the officers, who held a safe distance, not to come close. Among the various snakes, hidden in small cloth sacks, were two poisonous cobras.

The Egyptian said he had hoped to sell the snakes in Saudi Arabia. Police confiscated the snakes and turned Tulba over to the prosecutor's office, accusing him of violating export laws and endangering the lives of other passengers.

According to the customs officials, Tulba claimed the snakes are wanted by Saudis who display them in glass jars in shops, keep them as pets or sell them to research centers.

The value of the snakes was not immediately known.