A Compound versus a Villa

This is a light informative post to tell you about living in a compound in Saudi Arabia. One of my new friends asked me what a compound is and so I decided to make this post.

What is a Villa?

We started off living in a villa (house) with no furniture, no appliances, nothing! A villa is just the word that people use to refer to where you live or your house. So villa =house. After 2 years we moved to a compound in Al-khobar because we had a job with a Western company.This first compound was small but very upscale, it had around 25 houses and a restaurant near the pool.


living room at first compound house


pool area at first compound

The upstairs had a family room with a glass railing that over looked the living room down stairs. So, quite strange going from no furniture, no phone and no electricity to living in what seemed to be luxury.

After a year we moved back to Riyadh to a large compound which is pictured below and had maybe 150-200 housing units. Large Western companies usually provide compound living to expats with Western citizenship. So, we lived in a compound for about 6-7 years. I can only tell you what our compound was like and the others we visited and that was 12 years ago. So, things have probably changed a bit.

There are small compounds with 15 houses or even 50 but ours was like a small housing development here in the States. There were 8 large houses in the back, and numerous 3 bedroom townhouses as well as 2 bedrooms and a hotel for people coming to work on a temporary basis. There were also apartment units for single men.  Other compounds were much larger or possibly very small, I think our compound was average in size.

Living in a compound is luxury living. There are all different types of compounds and also different types of houses inside of compounds.


Our home was attached to a house next to it sort of like a duplex. I would say it was 2500 square feet, made of cement. It had a large living /dining room area downstairs and a large kitchen. I was told that all furniture was shipped over from the states (not sure if that is accurate).All furniture was provided in the house. This means couches, end tables, coffee tables, television sets etc. Our home had air conditioning throughout. Inside the kitchen there were all new Western appliances. We had 4 bedrooms and a tiny family room upstairs. Very nice plush carpeting throughout and decorative items as well. We were also provided with all dishes, utensils, pots and pans, blankets, sheets, pillows etc.


Outside we had a porch and large area with green grass and beautiful landscaping.


Everything was taken care of, workers and gardeners swept streets, tended to landscaping etc. We had two parks for children complete with swings, slides etc. We also had two very nice pool areas for residents.





At the front of the compound was a gate meant to keep everyone out! Guards sit in a little room monitoring who comes in and out and no one except residents are allowed to drive in.  So very high security all around. A mini market was at the front of the compound. This had Western products and basic necessities. There was a mail room, gym and full indoor basketball court as well.  A large recreation center with pool tables, ping pong etc. There were four tennis courts outside and well lit areas for walking.

Later, newer compounds sprung up, one had a full baseball field (only one in Riyadh) wave pool and farm. This is luxury living! The downside is, you are isolated from the outside, real world. So, if you want the experience of meeting people and getting to know culture that probably wont happen.  If you live in a compound like this, you might not even leave to go out except a quick trip to Safeway.

There was a shopping bus that ran several times a day and took residents to grocery stores, vegetable market, malls etc. If you don’t live on a compound then you most likely have a driver or need one!



29 thoughts on “A Compound versus a Villa

  1. this is wonderful! Taking us on this tour with you of life in Saudi Arabia. Really takes me out of my little thinking box. Of course, no idea this existed at all! Very amazing, the photos really help to illustrate your message well.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree it would certainly keep you separated from the rest of the city and the locals. Just depends if that is what you are happy with I guess. If it’s not your preferred choice, maybe it’s a bit like a luxurious prison? But it sounds better than the way you started your life there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very nice….I have a friend who lives in Istanbul and she lives in something similar, a compound for the foreigners working for the company form the states…..yours was beautiful….what a nice compound to raise your kids….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this enlightening post Lynz. When I read other posts of yours where you mentioned compound the first thing that popped into my head was fencing and barbed wire but this sounds spectacular. But even with all the amenities, for a change of pace I’m sure the longing for life beyond the walls would eventually come about.

    Liked by 1 person

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