I spent my first year of living in Amman in Mecca Mall. That year was a terrible year for me, having felt like I had been yanked out of my little perfect life and into one full of never-ending rain, terrible cold, moldy walls, and mean people. The mall was one of my few comforts, a little part of my previous existence, complete with marble floors, bright neon lights, and the familiar white noise produced by the patter of mall-goers, regardless of whether it was rain or shine outside its concrete walls.
Ahh… it’s incredible how homogenous malls are. Regardless of where I am, whether the mall-goers are half-naked, covered up in winter coats, or barely visible with their abayas, there’s this delicious familiarity in malls that makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. The brands of the world form an array of welcoming hosts, completing the familiarity, and making the world easier in any country, whether I speak the language or not.
This homogeneity and these brands were my home away from home, constants in a period where everything familiar to me had disappeared. The brands somehow turned into long-term friends- Mango with its modern classicism, Burger King with its cheap coffee, Stradivarius with its edginess. The fonts are deliciously the same as what I grew up with, the displays are what I’ve walked by a thousand times.
That year, I learned to appreciate the power of branding and globalization as cures for homesickness, and I, homesick, would spend hours just walking around playing pretend.
With time, I naturally became more comfortable with Amman. I also found out that I hate the “tourist Amman” that I grew up with and that I was much happier with the more relaxed and local “older Amman”. So Mecca Mall, belonging to the former group, stopped being a part of my weekly routine. It became an old friend, someone I grew out of, someone I avoid seeing because it makes me so uncomfortable. I even stopped shopping, opting to have clothes picked out for me by my mother, who is so much more fashionable than I am, and delivered in a suitcase to my bedroom.
Today, my mother and I went to Mecca Mall to buy a hammock for the garden. It almost felt as if the walls of the mall were echoing “Zorooni koli sannah marrah”, making me feel like running my fingertips over the marble and apologizing for being such a hypocrite.
Then I got sucked into an emotional rollercoaster of nostalgia.
Ahh… the familiar white noise which I love so much, making life prettier and better and surreal. Mango smiling at me brightly on one side of the wall, shining teeth and all. My mother and I walk in. I like this, I like that. Look, dressy shorts. Me? Wear dressy shorts? Sure. Why not. It’s ‘Moda’. Ok. Moda is moda. Pretty slippers. I want. Let’s go get glasses too, I need glasses. Yalla. Try on frames for an hour- beige or purple? Beige wins. I was 12 when I first shopped at Mango. It was a little black skirt and I loved it to little bits and pieces.
As soon as I’m back home, I find myself staring lovingly at my gorgeous new shoes and shorts, experiencing the same form of satisfaction I’ve experienced a thousand times in a period of my life that feels like it almost wasn’t mine.