Reader Question Answered: What are the KAUST Townhouses Like?

By | January 25, 2012

<<UPDATE 12/9/2012: here’s my post on 2-br detached houses>>

I was recently contacted by a reader about housing and transportation at KAUST and I thought her questions would make a good topic for my next blog post.

Georgina wrote:

My husband and I just accepted a job with KAUST school for 2012-2013 school year. I was wondering if you happen to have photos of the townhouse accommodations and/or the location? As well, would you know if people at KAUST often seem to purchase cars and the process they go through for that? Thanks again.

So.. here’s to hoping I can answer your questions, Georgina!


Let’s start with the houses. My husband and I live in a two-bedroom townhouse. As you didn’t mention any kids, I’m assuming that you’ll be in a house similar to ours.

There are several different types of houses here and they are all pretty much variations on the same theme. For the most part a two-bedroom townhouse is pretty similar to all the other two-bedroom townhouses at KAUST. They’ll have slightly different proportions and back yards for instance, but the inside is mostly the same – and with the same or similar furnishings too.

This is pretty weird at first – you walk into your friends’ house and it is almost identical to yours. Okay, that’s still weird for us actually.

As for location, all of the KAUST housing-stock is inside the compound where the University is. There are a few residential areas – the Gardens, the Harbor and the Island. There are all types of houses in all areas. Gardens houses are the newest and may even be brand new when you move in. Island houses tend to have larger back yards.

Here are a few photos of our house that we took when we first moved here:

Here’s the guest room. To the left of the shot is a dressing room and en suite.

Guest room en suite. There are four bathrooms in this house – I never knew anyone could need so many places to pee!


View from the front door. Downstairs is the kitchen, dining room, living room, and maid’s quarters (yes.. maid’s quarters… aka Muttley’s room!)

The kitchen

Living room and dining room

living room

Dining room

Back yard as photographed through the screen door. What was I thinking?!

Front of house. It was really, really humid the day I took this photo – hence the foggy lense. Look through the fog :-)

Guest room balcony



As for your question of transportation, you have a lot of options. First, you really don’t need a car unless you want one. The busses on compound go around to anywhere on the compound you’d want to go and come often. Also, the compound is really small so all you really need is a bicycle to get around. We rode ours on the warmest days of the summer and coldest days of the winter – and there is a bike shop for repairs on campus. There are also taxis and free busses to go into Jeddah. Many, many people here do not bother getting cars.

If you do want a vehicle, you have your choice of moped, motorcycle, dune buggy, quad bike, golf cart, or an actual car. Yes, you see all of these around campus!

The bike shop on campus sells dune buggies and quad bikes, I think. And, you can often find ads at Tamimi (our local grocery store) or on the private “KAUST-for sale” facebook group for vehicles for sale.



I really hope these tips help you, Georgina. Let us know when you arrive and we can welcome you to town!


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  • rabia

    I want job in kaust for teaching post.. how can i get this job… my qualification is mphill computer science.. please help me out.. i really need this job.

  • Pooja Pavithran

    Hii Claire,
    Need more info on teacher with single occupancy. If i get in will be coming alone. So wanted to know about – 1) housing and benefits (single occupancy)
    2) work environment
    3) Salary
    4) Provision for travelling to another country/countries during holidays
    5) And how does anyone spend their time esp if u r single and of different country.
    Since all your post are specific …. and a lot informative would love to take advice from u first and then approach the coordinator as this will give a new perspective and also know the loop holes before hand.
    Thank a tonn!!

  • Claire

    Hi Pooja – for your first 4 questions, you need to ask your relocation advisor about this. this is specific to your role and contract. For the last question, this is very specific to you. You may spend your time any way you please! You may go diving or to the golf course, you may travel or visit Jeddah, you may hang out with friends, or sit at home all by yourself! I will say though that there are many people from ” a different country” here… I’m sure you can find others from your country to connect with.

  • Claire

    I cannot help you. Please check out the website and follow the steps provided there.


    Hi Claire, I am doing my Ph.D in India and I have a plan to do postdoc at KAUST as my husband is working in Jeddah (globe marine services). I have a 4year old son too. I have some doubts to ask you.
    1) Free housing upto a 2 bed room townhouse is in the website, will it be able for my husband to stay with us and go for work outside, whether KAUST have norms for that? He has his own work permit visa, only thing is he wants to stay inside the compund with us.
    2) Will my son definitely get a schooling at KAUST school and whether its a free schooling?
    3) How much SAR will be fine to lead a decent upper middle class life there?

  • Hi Sumithira – congrats on your postdoc at KAUST. I hope you like it here!

    Your first two questions are really contract-based, so I think it’s best to run the questions by your relocation advisor. But, I’ll give it a shot with what I believe to be true:
    1. Yes, your husband should be able to live with you here and work elsewhere. Your housing is for you and your immediate family.
    2. Yes, as far as I know, the school is provided for children of all KAUST employees as long as they don’t have exceptional special needs.
    3. I’m really not sure how much most people spend here. I find that my life here is significantly cheaper than it was in the US and the UK – with the exception of international travel expenses. Some friends of mine and I were guessing the other day that a family of 3 could live on about 4000 sar a month if they were trying to be very frugal. I think the definition of what someone could live on and what “upper middle class” really means makes this answer really tough. I hope my answer helps you a small bit though!

    Good luck in your decision making process.


    Thank you Mrs.Claire, your views are useful very much to proceed with the decision. Hope everything works well and dream come true one day with my family at KAUST.


    Hello Claire,
    I am little bit relaxed about the schooling of my son as he does not require any assistance and about the fees, whether it is free for postdoc/employee’s children. I have seen the fees structure in website but it is quoted for non-KAUST employees. Is there any child care centres to stay until their parents return from job?


    Hello Claire,
    I am little bit relaxed about the schooling of my son as he does not require any assistance and about the fees, whether it is free for postdoc/employee’s children. I have seen the fees structure in website but it is quoted for non-KAUST employees. Is there any child care centres to stay until their parents return from job?

  • Hi Sumithira – Glad my answers could help you!

    Yes, school is provided free of charge for students, postdocs, employees etc.

    There is afterschool care as well, but for a small fee. I’m not sure the cost, but it’s not a lot. Your relocation advisor could let you know the fee on that I’m sure.


    Ho thank you so much Claire, I really appreciate your interest in posting answers which are of great help to many of us.

  • you’re so welcome!

  • Meylis

    Hi Claire,
    Thank you for a nice post about townhouse. It was very helpful.
    I have some questions, do you know the difference between the 2 bedroom townhouse and 2 bedroom apartment? Are there any photos of 2 bdr apartment online? Which one do you think would be better to live in for a family of 3: me, my wife and 9 month old child?

  • I *think* the 2-br apartments are the brand new housing so I really don’t know the answer as I haven’t seen the new places yet. You may want to ask your relocation advisor – or if you can get in contact with any students they might know the answer. Sorry I’m not of more help on this one!

    What I can say though is that a 2-bedroom townhouse is great for a family with one child.

  • Meylis

    Thank you Claire for this information. I was contacted by relocation advisor and she offered me 2 options, either 2br townhouse or 3br one. But there is higher cost for a 3br. So, I took 2 br townhouse, and I hope it will be good.
    Thanks again!

  • I personally like the layout of the 2br townhouse more than the 3br townhouse. It has a nicer layout in the living room and dining room. I’m sure you’d be happy with either though – they’re all very similar!