The terms hoyu and ara , which designate the covered interior courtyard and the hut of each individual, respectively, also designate the house, as does the word ba , which applies more particularly to the group of habitations of a single lineage. The hoyu represents a family unit; it is the basis of the family. The number of persons to be lodged, rather than wealth, determines the number of huts and their importance.
A dwelling is composed of several round buildings of adobe with thatched roofs, connected to one another by a woven-straw fence. Sometimes hedges of euphorbia ( Euforbia kamerunica and E. hispida ) replace them or are added. Cultivated trees such as boswelia ( Boswelia dalzielli ), bougainvillea ( Bougainvillea glabra ), and flame trees ( Caesalpinea pulcherina ) provide shade and ornamentation. The buildings are placed close together, in order to leave an open area in the center. A typical dwelling unit consists of at least five parts: an entry ( atikalat ), a man's room ( ara, the door of which faces that of the atikalat), a hut for the wife ( hoy tibuelgu ), a kitchen ( kanamju ), and an inside attic ( kulu ). Not far away, separate rooms are added for boys and girls, once they reach puberty. Young unmarried males possess a square hut, either inside the family enclosure or outside it, a few meters away. In polygamous households, each wife has a complete dwelling unit. Exterior storehouses, in which harvests (e.g., millet, peanuts) are deposited, vary in number and size, according to the ranks of the different wives to whom they belong. They vary in shape and sometimes in decoration, according to the region. They are round buildings of adobe, separated from the ground by a collections of stones. Entrance is gained from the top, by raising the movable roof.
The dwellings may also include annexes. Inside the enclosure, a storeroom-chapel shelters the "Guaw Lasindii" stones, which represent the dead of the lineage. Forges are always situated outside the smith's dwelling. They are not protected by any construction, except for a simple shelter of mats supported on stakes, while they are in use. Millet dryers, constructed in the same manner, are also placed outside. A little farther away rise the sheepfolds, which are shanties of branches where goats and sheep are penned in for the night. Shelters made of matting allow visitors and members of the household to enjoy the shade. They serve as meeting places, where people discuss or drink or where young people play music while thus preserving the intimacy of the home. Traditionally, the clay buildings were often decorated, inside and outside, with painted geometric motifs (symbolic or simply esthetic) or with imaginary scenes of a commemorative character (e.g., a hunt or a dance). Also noteworthy are the constructions that are reserved for the worship of the clan ancestors. They are enclosures covered with mats, in which two structures contain the sacred rhombs, objects of clay, and iron bracelets, as well as the clan masks.
Until 1970, the dwellings in the mountains were grouped into hamlets, according to clan or lineage. In the late twentieth century they tend more and more to include immediate family members only.