Houseways: Rental Apartments in Dhofar, Khareef and Dhofari/ Non-Dhofari Designs

A unique aspect of housing market in Dhofar is that there is a large supply of furnished rental apartments and houses because of the khareef (monsoon) season. In non-covid times, thousands of Arabic visitors come between June and August to enjoy the cool, foggy weather. Visitors to Dhofar will often stay 2-3 weeks, so they want all the conveniences of a set-up home. In other parts of Oman, unfurnished apartments and houses are the norm because the expectation is that people will rent for several months or years and landlords don’t want to deal with the wear and tear on furniture from renters.

Another aspect of the huge rental market for khareef is that landlords will sometimes rent apartments and houses very cheaply for 9 or 10 months (September to May or June), then raise the prices for high tourist season. For example, a 2-bedroom apartment might be 150 OR per month for most of the year, and then 50 OR per night in July and August. This means some renters will, year after year, move their belongings into their office and leave for the summer, then move back in September first.

In terms of how the apartments are planned, there is a basic division between those designed by and built for Dhofari Omanis and for non-Dhofari Omans. [For a general discussion of apartment buildings see Houseways – Types of Apartments Buildings (Family/ Public) ]

The main difference is that for Dhofari-Omanis space is allocated between guests and family members with the intention that family members can move freely within the apartment, in addition to usually being able to come in and leave.

Most Dhofari-designed apartments have two doors [see example below] so that, like houses, guests are secluded in one room while family members have access to all other rooms and the main entrance.

There are other formats. In my (Dhofari-designed) apartment [see Houseways – Cultural Perspectives and Movement within an Apartment: The Practicalities of Having Guests  ], the front door is not visible from the majlis so anyone could come and go without being seen. In another apartment [see Houseways – Balancing Privacy and Hospitality within an Apartment ] this is not possible because the majlis is next to the door, but there is a door to the salle which cannot be seen by a guest sitting on the sofa, so family members can go into and out of the salle and kitchen without being seen. Further there is a hallway door, so the area with bedrooms is visually and acoustically separated.

Another type of design is a one main door which opens into a hallway, with the main sitting room as the first door on the left or right. Once guests are inside, the family members have access to the hallway and all other rooms. For the moments of entry and exit, the host will be speaking loudly, welcoming guests or trying to convince them to stay/ saying goodbye, so everyone will know the hallway is in use.

Rental apartments for tourists are usually built within a different framework, in which the section of the apartment near the front door is open to the back of the apartment so that if there are male guests, there can be little or no movement.

An example: the front door opens directly into a small living room with six armchairs. Along the left-hand wall is a guest bathroom. In the back left-hand corner is a short, five-foot hallway which ends in six-sided open space about eight feet across with four doors. First door to the left is small kitchen, second door (ahead, to the left) is bedroom, third door (straight ahead) is a bathroom, then there is a small alcove with a washing machine, then fourth door (to the right) bedroom. Thus, guests can hear anything that is happening in the back of the apartment and those sitting along the far wall of the sitting room can see down the short hallway.

In this set-up the front “controls” the back of the apartment. This makes sense in terms of khareef rentals as tourists come as large groups of family or friends, thus there is no need to worry about keeping guests separate. The housing space is family-only. If a male tourist meets a friend in Salalah, they will both understand that the housing is not set up to entertain guests and they will have a picnic or take a meal/ coffee together in a restaurant (pre-covid).

(Example of apartment with two doors, main door and majlis to the right, photo by homeowner and given to me with permission to use for this website)

g - doors 2