Fellow countrywoman and blogger, Roba, mentioned the latest IKEA chaos in north London, where people clashed as they gathered for the opening of the famous furniture store. She revisited the stampede that occurred in Saudi Arabia last year when three people died waiting for the opening of that same Swedish furniture giant in Riyadh.
All that reflection made me wonder what the Jordanian reaction would be if this legendary store ever makes it to the kingdom. For some reason, I foresee a similar mania, if not worse, among those ready to welcome the arrival of this touted brand in Jordan.
What makes me think so? Let’s travel back, back to the mid-1990’s and remember what happened to Jordan and Jordanians when the first McDonald’s opened in the capital. Oh, my! I remember after the initial opening of the store, parts of West Amman were closed for almost a week because of the traffic, as waves of burger lovers came from across the country to get a glimpse of the famous golden arches.
I was among those trying to drive to the Seventh Circle District to see what all the fuss was about. Of course I couldn’t get through the massive traffic jam; I was stuck in it for hours. I amused myself by guaging people’s excitement as they waited for their turn to get a taste of that burger. I remember seeing kids dangling from the car windows chanting “McDonald’s! McDonald’s! McDonald’s!” It was, by any definition, mass hysteria.
The story doesn’t end here. When I went to Jordan University the following day I was among a select few that decided to skip early morning classes so we could get to Mickey D’s before anyone else arrived. After ditching school, a group of ten of us or so managed to dodge traffic and arrive safely in Seventh Circle to make it inside. After savoring a Big Mac, we stopped to take a picture outside the store with the infamous Ronald McDonald. If that is not pathetic I don’t know what is.
Would I be surprised if a similar incident occurs in Jordan if IKEA ever makes it to the kingdom? No. Brand obsession is another trait cherished by Jordanians from all walks of life. The story of McDonald’s-Jordan is but one example.