Houseways is published
I was thinking of moving houses this fall and it was fun to look at new houses in the context of the work I have done about houses in Dhofar.
One house had a floor plan that I had never seen before but makes sense in terms of how Omanis don’t think the smell of cooking/ cooked food is positive. The house had the common set up of a separate majlis and a large open salle. There was also a bedroom on the ground floor. However, as the house was small and the bedroom was to one side, the salle extended all the way to the back of the house. Along the far wall was sliding glass doors which led out to the hosh.
The home owner and I walked around the outside of the house and I walked into the kitchen, which had its own entrance. As I looked around, I realized that there was no connecting door from the kitchen to the inside of the house. I asked the home-owner and he showed me a narrow, raised walkway which led from the door of the kitchen to the sliding glass doors at the back of the salle. Food would have to carried from the kitchen to the salle for every meal.
As the walkway was about 4 feet above the level of the hosh, all I could think of was the possible dangers of navigating that ledge at night in khareef when the tiles would be slick with drizzle.
Another house also had a plan that was new to me. There was a majlis to the right (east) of the main door and then a large open area for the salle, but no main hallway. After the majlis on the eastern side, there was a large bedroom; its bathroom shared a wall with the bathroom of the majlis on the north side. On the south side, the bedroom shared a wall with the kitchen. The rest of the space on the ground floor was open with a stair case that started in the north-east corner (near the interior door to the majlis) and then wrapped around the north and west walls. There was a small bedroom tucked under the stair case.
There are two understandings at play here: 1) often there is a bedroom for a senior family member that is near the majlis/ salle on the ground floor so that they don’t have to walk up-stairs and 2) often the maid’s room is next to the kitchen. Given that the bedroom between the majlis and kitchen was large, I guessed that it was for an older relative and the small room under that stairs was for the maid.
I also looked at an apartment connected to a house. Facing the road there was a main entrance to the house and a door to the majlis, then a third door on the side which led to a landing with one door (the ground-floor flat) and a staircase up the first floor flat. As I walked through the first-floor flat, I realized there was no majlis. The apartment had been built for the families of sons who were not yet married. The owner was renting the apartments to help pay for the building costs, and when the sons were older, they would live in them. Thus, there was no need for a majlis in the apartment as the sons would meet in the main majlis of the family house.