Most Gulf Arabs live in villas behind high walls, for privacy–to keep prying eyes away from the women. Inside the compound there are usually two separate houses, one for the male members of the household, and another for the women. There is usually also a separate building for the kitchen. Servants, mostly female, from various poorer countries, keep all the buildings clean and do the cooking. Filipina servants are paid the most because they’re regarded as the best and cleanest. Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, and Indians are also common. In Stoning the Devil, Badria and Alia both live in compounds like this, which often have gaily painted gates like the one in the picture. The fronds of palm trees, for shade, thrust above them. Some younger people in the big cities prefer to live in apartments, but most locals live in the low-rise outskirts of the city in these big villas. Most are painted white, with flat or terra cotta roofs. They often look like big Mediterranean villas. This one is in Bureimi, right across the border from Al Ain, in Oman. I used to work at the national university (United Arab Emirates University) in Al Ain. It’s famous throughout the Arab world for its beautiful gardens, its trees and flower-filled medians.