Housing: Moving while in Sana’a

Qadr Allah, we were on the move yet again last summer. I thought I would share some information/anecdotes about our experience hunting for houses in case someone is looking to relocate here to Yemen, specifically Sana’a.

If you can find someone to locate you a house before coming, that’s mumtaz (great). If you find that you have to look once you get here, here’s a little about what I have recently learned about house/apartment finding.

You can visit a maktaab (office) where they can locate an apartment, house, or land to rent or buy for you. Maktaabs are typically all the same, more or less.

a Maktaab for finding rentals and properties for sale (one of many)

You walk in (well, my son goes in, I don’t as it is exclusively males) and there is usually always a low sofa. There are always a few men sitting on the sofas, kind of relaxed chewing qat. Often times you’ll see some shoes inside near the door. You tell them what you are looking for.

If they have something that they know of, you go outside and hail a taxi. You are responsible for paying the taxi costs. So be prepared. We have just been getting a taxi and having that taxi take us around to the different places instead of getting a different taxi each leg of the trip. We checked prices of one of the more modern taxi companies and calculated the cost of a typical trip going to look for houses. Now we are more equipped because some of the drivers will ask you how much you want to pay (of course that’s just a formality because usually your price is too low). We figured out that a typical 2.5 hour trip would cost around $10-11 dollars. Its important to get a feel early on for the prices of things so that you won’t get cheated (as badly, lol). The traditional taxis are privately owned and do not have meters, so you are likely to get cheated. They now have nice company owned taxis, such as Raha Taxi, www.rahataxi.com and they have nice, clean cars and use the meters. For the trips we have taken, these are much more cheaper than the privately owned taxis. And they make for a more comfortable ride, although there are more and more nice taxis on the streets these days. We have taken several old taxis before and have ended up having to hail another taxi because the first one broke down.

Side note about taxis. One time we got into a taxi where the driver was smoking (tadkheen). My son asked him to put the cigarette out. He did. About ten minutes later, he pulls over and starts hailing us another taxi. He says that if he does not smoke it will make him get sicker or crazy……..well, at least he didn’t just drop us off without getting us another taxi……

So you drive around to the different places that they find you. Often times, the owner is not there and so we have missed looking at a few places. Basically, when you find a place, you then sign the contract and move in.

A few things you’ll want to look for/ask about:

Electricity. Will you have your own meter? We have been hooked up to a meter with someone else sponging off of us and we were paying for their electricity.

Water – is it from a wyat (underground storage tank and you (or the owner) must get a water truck or is it hakumi (government)

Balcony/Courtyard. Most people hang their clothes out to dry, make sure there is an area where you can do this.

Maktab fee. How much. Many charge about ½ the cost of one months of rent, though one taxi driver said it should be like about 50 dollars. We have yet to find one that cheap. Usually you just pay for that month that you are moving in (usually no first/last month thing). A few places will want 6 months to a year in advance (yeah right).

Contract – if you don’t read Arabic and don’t have someone fluent with you or that you can use, ask if you can get it translated, but you will of course want to use an independent translator. Also, see if its possible to sign the English version.

Moving truck. There are places that you can go, where there are workers and trucks sitting around waiting for work. You can get a truck and the workers to move your things. They tend to be kind of clumsy and in our last move, a foot of our stove got broken. A truck might cost around 1500 riyals (like 5-7 bucks) and the workers about the same. Don’t pay more than like 3,000-5,000 riyals if you can help it. And expect that they might try to raise the price after they have already started.

Some rent/housing jargon:

Iyjar –rent

Kahraba – electricity

Wyat – underground water storage tank

Shaqqah – apartment

Maktab – house/apartment finder (ask for maktaab li iyjar)

Sahib – owner

Masul (basically like a superintendent, collects rent, takes water/phone/electric payments for you sometimes)

Shahr – month

Ta’meen – similar to security deposit; also the word for insurance

Hawsh- courtyard

Balcony – shurfah

Aqd – contract

Tarjim – translate

4 Responses

  1. “Water – is it from a wyat (underground storage tank and you (or the owner) must get a water truck or is it hakumi (government)”

    As-Salaamu Alaykum which type of water do you prefer?

  2. wa alaykum us salaam,

    It really depends on where you live. Sometimes we have had hakumi water and sometimes we have had the storage tank.

    Not sure which I prefer, the water trucks are kind of a pain to get (although you can schedule a truck to come at certain intervals). Didn’t really have too much trouble with the hakumi water except they turned it off one time when they were doing major street construction.

    As far as quality, everyone still seems to buy bottled water whether they are on hakumi or not.

  3. Where did you live prior to moving to Yemen?

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