Housing: What’s it Like?

I think many people may have the idea that the housing is mud housing and resembles housing that you might see in National Geographic )
To be sure, you will find mud housing, especially in villages such as Damaaj, and I have seen houses in Sana’a where an exterior wall may be made of mud bricks. There are centuries old buildings here. But most of the housing you will see in most modern suburbs and metropolitan areas of Sana’a is made from brick or concrete brick. If you see a house under construction, you are likely to think, wow, that’s going to be an ugly house. The concrete brick can be very ugly.
Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to see many houses near me under construction through the years that we have been here and the ugly concrete brick usually gets a façade of a much prettier brick or stucco on the outside, transforming gray, ugly shells of buildings into unbelievably beautiful houses. Many times you will see the year of construction on the exterior of buildings and the words “Masha Allah,” “La ilaha illa Allah” in Arabic, painted or built into the brick.
If you take a look at my web photo album (URL in the navigation bar) you can see some of the beautiful buildings around Sana’a.
The interiors of the housing are not so much different from the states, except maybe the materials. The living room floors are almost always made out of a square tile speckled with rocks. In fancier homes, you may find pretty ceramic tiles. Typically, houses do not come with curtains or carpeting, though you can find some rental properties that do come with them. There are many carpeting and texture stores where you can purchase carpeting and curtains and have them installed. Typically padding under the carpeting is unusual, though you can probably purchase it, Allahu ilm (I have never seen it in any homes). The cost to carpet a three bedroom apartment (labor and materials) may run around $200, depending on the quality of carpet selected and of course the dimensions of the apartment.The kitchens and bathrooms are typically wall to wall ceramic tiles with the tiles going up the wall or maybe stopping two-three feet from the ceiling. Usually in a three bedroom apartment there may be 2 bathrooms. Usually one bathroom will have a mirhad (in the ground) only and the other may have a mirhad and what they call a French toilet (American style, above the ground). The mirhads that we have had have all had nice porcelain inlaid fixtures so it does not look simply like a hole in the ground, but as one sister described it, basically looks (more or less) like a regular toilet, just laid in the ground. Some mirhads will flush and some you will find do not flush so you will need to flush it manually with a bucket of water. The bigger of the two bathrooms will usually have a tub. The smaller bathrooms usually have a shower fixture where the water pours out onto the ceramic tile. I have come to love these as it makes clean up easier, one less thing to clean up, you just squeegee the excess water down the drain. All kitchens and bathrooms, more or less, have drains in them. These make mopping and squeegeeing so much more easier. In the states I would have cringed at water splashing on the floor. But be sure to keep the drains closed when not in use as bugs (such as cockroaches) may come up through unclosed drains. (they also like to hide in the holes near the bottom of cooking tanks so be sure to splash water under there regularly to clean the area out, if your house is prone to have cockroaches)

Kitchens typically do not come with a refrigerator or stove/oven so these will need to be purchased. Depending on the style and size, you can find refrigerators from $50 – $200 and up. Ovens can run from around $100-150 and up and you can also purchase a stovetop only for maybe around $30 dollars.

You can rent flats (apartments) or find charming villas (stand alone houses, typically with yards). One villa that we rented had pomegranate trees growing and a large area for the kids to play in). Most flats will have balconies where you can hang your clothes to dry, although I have seen a few apartments, typically first floor ones, without balconies. Most balconies that we have had were pretty small and narrow, though there were some exceptions. Some balconies will have high walls/rails for privacy and safety and some will have low walls and no rails, posing a major concern for safety. I remember when we were in Egypt, I saw a little girl, no more than 2, perched side saddled in between the rails of a balcony wall maybe at the fourth floor or so which horrified me, her parents were no where to be found. Most of the windows here have qamariyyah windows above (half circle shaped windows, with stained or regular glass) over the main window and safety bars on the portions of the windows that open. The ground floors typically have wrought iron railing on the window. Great for safety, but in the event of a fire, there seems as if there would be no means of escape through them as far as I can tell, but Allahu ilm.

There is a lot of construction going on around Sana’a and you can find great affordable new or older housing, insha Allah. I think the major constraint is time. If you have time to go out and about searching, then your chances are better, although it is possible to find something nice in one day (we’ve done it before), but it could take weeks and Allah knows best.

To see pictures of  house, ($350/month), please see the following post:


Please note, although this is not the most expensive rent, you can find comfortable new housing as well, unfurnished, in the $150-$200 range.


One Response

  1. Asslamu’alikum,

    If you would like to rent quality, new apartments in Sana’a, in a quiet, clean, middle-class neighbourhood, please see: http://www.sanaa-apartments.com or email us on: info@sanaa-apartments.com


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