Where to Live in Eastern Province
Living on a Compound in Eastern Province
Below are two recommended compounds in eastern province.
Canary Village is the latest creation of Rashed Al Rashed & Sons group, A modern concept in residential compounds, has been carefully designed to provide expatriates with a high standard of accommodation.It is a comfortably size compound with wide roadways set in landscaped surroundings, it has 159 villas with double storied three bed room of European style, fully furnished with American furniture and major appliances.The operation started in 1995, and customer’s satisfaction is our goal at all times.
Compounds have the advantage that you’ll meet lots of other expats there. They are gated communities, often located outside of metropolitan Riyadh. They offer numerous amenities, such as shops, pools, gyms, or shuttle service, and the mutawwa (religious police) cannot enter. Therefore the strict dress codes and rules concerning gender segregation do not apply.
However, as mentioned above, they can get sort of claustrophobic after a while. Moreover, compound villas are particularly expensive – they can easily cost SR 50,000 (about 13,300 USD) per month. Since rent may have to be paid up to one year in advance, this will tear a big hole into your budget and may require a small loan.
No matter where you decide to live, keep the following things in mind:
- Make sure that you get an English rental agreement or an official translation from the Arabic before you sign anything.
- Check if your new place already has utility connections for water and electricity. (Gas is only bought in bottles.)
- If you want to save some time and money, go for housing that has at least some basic furnishing. In compounds, fully furnished housing may be available.
- Ask about voltage and frequency net, and stock up on adapters and plug-in sockets since the wiring is often a bit improvised.
The labour laws of Saudi Arabia state that the employer must provide either accommodation or an accommodation allowance for all of their expatriate staff. If an allowance is paid, then the minimum amount is 25% of the basic salary. This may seem a lot of money before you come to the Kingdom, but as rents have increased so much, this amount will not normally cover expenditure for reasonable accommodation. So to attract and retain good staff, the employer provides compound accommodation as part of the employment package. This may be either on a commercial compound, or some companies rent a whole compound to house their staff where they pay all costs directly. Saudi Arabia for the expatriate worker can be something of an initial culture-shock.The customs, habits and lifestyle are unique to the Kingdom and while it is easy to live in the general community, it is a lot more normal and less hassle living in a compound.Compounds cater mainly for overseas families by providing a community or village like atmosphere with a familiar cultural ambience. Life on compounds can range from comfortable to luxurious. They offer a safe and comfortable environment, especially for families with children. Day to day living and play is easy in the constant sun. Pools, sport facilities and recreation centres provide a variety of on-site activities and the community social life welcomes new arrivals. Families and singles invariably build their own circuit of friends and contacts. Gardeners and 24-hour maintenance make it stress free.
Since subsequent incidents around the world and within Saudi Arabia, compounds have generally upgraded their security measures.The benefit is increased security to residents but the downside is more difficult access to visitors, and some will still not let visitors drive into a compound.Today, the key attractions of compound living are security, the extended service facilities, like transport,maintenance, sport and entertainment events. A good compound also inspires a sense of safety and belonging in a secure environment.
There are plenty of such developments. In varying sizes (from 500+ units to 5-7 villa units), they are all good quality housing facilities,and most of them are high standard comfortable homes. A comfortable home makes a world of difference to living in Saudi Arabia.Rental prices of top-of-the range compounds tend to reflect: excellent location, luxurious living quarters, and extensive facilities. All compounds provide at least 2 out of these 3 characteristics. Checking out the management of a compound is another key important clue in your successful search for a ‘home’.
You should expect all compounds to provide basic facilities such as maintenance service included in the rent, satellite television and organised activities for the residents, swimming pool(s), shopping & school bus(es), limousine (taxi) service,play-ground(s), and some form of sport facilities.
Large compounds often have additional facilities – an on-site supermarket, restaurant,hairdresser/barber, travel agent, library,information centre, bowling alley, gym,squash courts, tennis courts, a nursery and
pre-school for young children and videolibrary.
Be sure what is included in the package you are paying for, and what is an additional cost.Some compounds charge for electricity and water on a monthly basis which can be high with the use of air conditioners, especially in the summer. Furnishings may be soft or hard – if you just get the basics who pays for the linen, cutlery and plates etc. If these are not provided ask your company for a start up allowance.
Satellite TV should be covered in the rent,but ask about Internet access national and international phone calls, school and shopping buses, gyms and anything else you can think of. This is the time to negotiate before a contract is signed.There also may be a deposit required,especially if you are not being paid for by a company with many employees on the compound. Also check out the terms of payment and potential discount for paying a year in advance. The price is always dependent on the supply and demand. There has been a significant increase in prices in the last 2 years due to an influx of expatriates for certain projects and the closure of some compounds to western passport holders, and no major compounds have been built. So don’t expect that the compound you want to live in will have an immediate vacancy – you may have to go on to a waiting list or take a unit not quite suitable that may be open on that specific compound.
They range from around SR 55,000 – 120,000 for a bachelor’s 1 or 2 bedroom flat on a top of the range compound, to a 2 or 3-bedroom comfortable unit on a smaller compound with only basic facilities.
A yearly rental price of SR 145,000 upwards would open up a range of a spacious three plus bedroom villas on compounds,where every imaginable facility or service is available. The average rent for a furnished and SR175,000 year. For a furnished two bedroom flat is around SR 100,000. The figures vary; but are often negotiable as the competition intensifies. It is always worth bargaining.
Individual tastes vary and it is a good idea to get a selection of opinions on compound life from residents of different compounds.
Luxurious ones might be soul-less and quiet, old and tree filled ones have a vibrant social life.
How you want to live is as much a factor in compound life as where you want to live. There will be one to suit your taste.
Research your potential home thoroughly;visit as many as you can, even if you have limited time. Check, what is included in the rent – a price that looks more attractive than the next compound might just be the rent for the house without a furniture package,maintenance charges and utility bills.
If you have school aged children (as your wife will not be able to drive in this country) you need to consider alternative transport other than you having to involve yourself in a daily school-run. There are two possibilities:
 either a safe compound school bus transport (which should be included in the rent) or
 a personal driver (if your work contract provides this) for school runs.
The third alternative is to contract a limousine or taxi service (either the compound’s own,or an outside car), but this should be your last resort, as it could be very costly. Walk the course; visit the compound and speak to people who live there. Local knowledge is always valuable. Check out the gym, the
tennis and squash courts, the supermarket,the restaurant as well as the housing unit.
Living on a compound, as opposed to a stand-alone villa in town, enables you and your family to avoid the sense of isolation by getting to know people and building a network of friends quickly, most importantly for women whose mobility entirely depends on the transport network being set up for them.
By their very nature – with high walls and good security – compounds tend to insulate and isolate the residents from the outside world. Saudi Arabia is truly a very sociable country to live in and it is well worth experiencing some of what it has to offer culturally. Being aware of local traditions and customs and picking up a little of the language reaps huge rewards socially and will enrich your experience of living in the Kingdom.
Compounds housing western passport holders are required to have the Saudi National Guard armed security and the concrete barriers, cameras etc, outside for your protection. In late 2007 some compounds decided to evict westerners so as to stop subsidizing this cost. If you hold 2 different passports, note that what determines eligibility to live on some compounds is the passport you are on legally in the Kingdom. We have separated the list of compounds but please check as the owner of the compound may decide to
change its status.