Pros & Cons of Living in Apartment [Archives:1998/03/Culture]

January 19 1998

Three typical apartment blocks in different areas in Sana’a were visited and several questions were put to some of the tenants to find out how comfortable they are living in such places.
The buildings included: – a three-story apartment block in an underprivileged area in Bab Al-Yemen which houses three families; – a three-story apartment block on the Ring Road which consists of 5 apartments and houses 3 families; and – a four-story apartment block in Hadda which consists of 8 apartments and houses 4 families. The following general conclusions are more or less, equally valid for all investigated buildings.
Hygiene The building is not clean and the stairs are so dirty. A tenant often cleans the part of the stairs and landing which lead to his or her apartment only. Janitor Usually a female janitor attends to the building’s hygiene and sanitation and is paid by the tenants every month. In some buildings the watchman cleans the stairs. In one particular building the janitor used to come and clean the place everyday. Later on, she started to come once a week. She once sent her little son to clean the building, but all he did was to play with the tenants’ children.
Watchman A watchman does not do his work as he is supposed to. For example, one watchman was asked to start his work at 8:00 AM and to leave when all the tenants are back home. But, one particular watchman is very old, very weak and his eyesight is diminishing. So he is not doing his job at all, but the tenants still have to pay him monthly.
Unruly Children The tenants’ children often play on the stairs because there are no backyards in the buildings and there are no public parks nearby. When parents want to have a rest, they send their children to play outside the apartment where they annoy others by knocking on their doors or ringing the bells.
Noise Tenants in the upper-middle class apartment building do not bother each other by turning up the volume of their TVs or radios. They are usually intellectuals occupying good positions in society. They understand each other and are good to one another. On the other hand, problems often take place among the tenants living in the lower-class area. To the extent of going to the police to resolve their disputes.
Theft Pilfering and even robbery sometimes takes place in the lower-class building. This ranges from stealing satellite dishes to TV aerials and clothes off the clothes line. Unfortunately, the neighbors themselves are the ones who commit these evils. Vagrants who sleep on the stairs often break into the apartments. They steal whatever they can, satellite receivers, videos, televisions, refrigerators, cutlery and crockery, etc. While one family was out of town, some people broke into their apartment and stole their furniture, their gold and a check-book.
Privacy Generally speaking, tenants are often quite nosy. When a quarrel takes place between a wife and a husband, their neighbors soon try to interfere. Women especially, do so. Such interference often worsens the problems between the couple, and it sometimes leads to divorce. ý
Vagrants In the lower-class neighborhood, poor and vagrant people always sleep on the stairs of the building. They even get the watchman’s permission, which is often granted in return for money. In the upper class neighborhood, the watchman allows vagrants to sleep inside the building during the night and leave early in the morning before any of the inhabitants notices them. He often takes some money from them as well.
Accidents Many accidents happen in these apartment blocks, especially on the balconies. It happened that a child fell to his death from a third floor apartment. Another child fell down from the window breaking her arm and leg. It is common that children fall down from the roof of the building due to their parents’ negligence.
Love Blossoms Girls and guys often develop some kind of relations. They start to talk to each other on the telephone, decide on a rendezvous, and usually meet on the roof of the building. When the relationship develops further, they meet outside. They sometimes agree to synchronize their going out and coming into the building so that they can have the chance to chat on their way up and down.
Complaints Tenants usually make complaints about each other to the landlord. They also complain about the vagrants who sleep on the stairs, about noise, about the guys who try to harass their daughters and about interference by some of their neighbors.
Water & Electricity One or two water tanks are often shared by all tenants. The problem is that some people in the building overuse water incurring a large water bill which has to paid in equal amounts by all tenants. When the water supply is cut, all tenants have to participate in filling the water tank. In all the visited buildings, people share a single electricity line. The problems start when the electricity bill arrives. Some people refuse to pay and others say that they don’t have a lot of electric instruments or they were out of the apartment during that particular month.
Neighborly Ties Neighbors often visit each other, especially in the afternoon after work and during public holidays. They also visit each other on social occasions such as weddings, the birth of a new baby and so on. When a tenant receives a guest from the countryside or from abroad, the neighbors often visit him or her. Some people, however, do not like to call on or visit their neighbors. On the other hand, some make visiting their neighbors an almost daily habit. They come early in the morning or late in the evening and they don’t usually choose a suitable time for that. This usually happens among lower-class people.
Athena Al-Absy