Alice Kalyan and her husband are sitting in the food court on the fourth floor of their local shopping centre, staring down at shoppers milling around on the floors below. It's a scene repeated across the world, but this shopping centre is in Baghdad's Mansour district. Open for a year, it is the city's biggest, but others may soon rival it.
The couple live in the Baghdad suburb of Khadra, an area with a heavy military presence, and it is hard for them to get to places like this. "It's our first visit," Alice, 56, said. "We stayed here throughout the war, though we lived in the UAE for 10 years until 1999. Mostly I don't get out. I mean, we can go shopping in our neighbourhood but there's nowhere like this."
The Maximall is popular with younger middle-class Iraqi women who can be found on the floors below. It's the template for a new standard for Iraqi shoppers.
On the outdoor balcony overlooking the domes of Saddam Hussein's vast unfinished mosque - planned to be the biggest in the world - a group of young tattoo artists enjoy a shisha. The city is still on edge, and bombings and killings remain common, so Baghdad's social life is conducted in safe places - in people's homes and neighbourhoods where they are known - or in public spaces where they feel comfortable.
But since the end of the sectarian war in 2008, Baghdad has crept towards a cautious normality, albeit under a very heavy security presence.
One of the recent additions is the Olive Leaves park near Jadriya, several restaurants and a playground set among palm trees beside the river.
Like the Maximall, it is under a year old. Adel al-Omran, the manager, said: "It used to be my grandfather's farm, but it wasn't that financially viable being in the middle of the city so I had the idea of opening this.
"Baghdadis have a thing for places like this where you can sit outside and it's safe for the children to play."
Mustafa al-Obeidi, 28 and his fiancée, Ala Rubaie, 30, were at the Al-Faqma ice-cream parlour in Karrada. Both engineering graduates, they work as daily contractors for the government.
"We get out about once or twice a month. We live on opposite sides of the city," said Mustafa. The ice cream costs US$2 - a treat, he admits, when his salary is only US$350 a month.
"There are neighbourhoods you avoid and places you feel more comfortable going than others," he said. "Here it is nice and it is secure."
Despite the improvements, co-ordinated blasts in the heart of the capital yesterday underlined the fragility of Baghdad's security. The attacks killed at least 25 people near the heavily fortified Green Zone, police and medics said.
Police said two car bombs exploded in the Alawi district, one of them near the Justice Ministry building, before a suicide car bomber blew himself up near an Interior Ministry office.