10 Essential tips for visiting Tunisia

During the February vacation, I went to Tunisia with a friend for five days and it was an amazing experience that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed. The trip was quite unique and we learned a number of things while we were there that I’ve decided to share with you for when you’re eventually planning to visit.

So if you’re hoping to blend in in the country and make the most of your experience, read on for more!

#1 : Bring a Passport. Or better yet, have one

This may sound very basic and obvious, but traveling outside of Europe requires a passport and not everyone is aware of that. We learned that the hard way the night before the flight when we found out that Arthur -who had originally bought his tickets when we did- couldn’t come with us, as we never went over the topic of him not having a passport because it was such an obvious thing for Anwar and I. So do have a passport, and bring it with you !

#2 : Check where you book your hotel / Consider Airbnbs

This may also seem like an obvious tip, but check closely in which area of the city your hotel is located, because we didn’t. You may end up in a part of the city you won’t necessarily like, or even in the suburb which can sometimes be quite far.

You can also try to book an Airbnb instead. From experience, the best rated ones are well located, well equipped and they’re very much worth the price (€10 per night for one person in Sousse and €15 in Tunis).

#3: Keep an eye on the taxi counter

Some taximen may try to rip you off very hard, especially when you’re a tourist. So always keep an eye on the taximeter displaying the passenger fare so they don’t change it at the end. It did happen to us, so if you’re ever doubting a fare that’s been given to you, chances are you’re being ripped off and you should probably check the internet or call a local (if you know one) to clear your doubts.

Moving in taxis is quite cheap in Tunisia, but louages (which means “rentals” in French) are way cheaper minibuses that can sometimes be a more favorable option if you don’t mind sharing the ride with other people. They’re not like taxis because they travel across stations in the city (and even between cities) and depart only when filled with passengers.

#4: Always bargain

You should always bargain the price before you pay in local markets -or souks. In fact, haggling is such a fundamental part of buying in many countries like Tunisia that even the salesperson expects you to bargain, so don’t shy from doing it. Eventually, you’ll get used to it and master the art.

Be sure to always start by knocking 50 to 60% off the starting price, and see where the negotiations take you.

#5 : Say you’re a foreigner to enter any nightclub

if you want to experience the nightlife, saying you’re a foreigner staying in town for a few days will get you in almost any night club, even the ones that are quite selective. They’ll assume you’re a tourist who’s gonna contribute rather well to their proceeds from the night, even when you’re not.

The next three tips will highlight the places to visit in the country

#6: Explore Tunis and its surroundings

Most flights come to Tunisia through the Carthage International Airport located in the capital Tunis, so it’s probable that it’s the first city you’ll be in when visiting the country.

The Medina (Arabic for City) is the first part of the city that we discovered. The Medina is the old town in Tunis, home to cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, where you’ll get a mix of colorful doors and old buildings. There, you can visit the souk des chéchias- the local traditional market- where you can find all sorts of clothes from traditional to modern, but also spices and utensils for everyday use.

Il fait beau, voici trois endroits incontournables à la médina de Tunis

You can also take a day trip to Sidi Bou Said, a neighborhood on the Mediterranean coast. You’ll be bewitched by the white and blue colors everywhere, and the location gives off similar vibes to some Greek and Italian seaside neighborhoods. Not far from Sidi Bou Said are the ruins of Carthage, ancient city from the time of the Phoenicians. The ruins don’t take kilometers of space, but they’re well preserved and have become quite the tourist attraction in the area.

Hôtels 4 étoiles à Sidi Bou Saïd – Hotels.com

That’s surely not all there is to Tunis, where you can also visit other areas like the Ville Nouvelle (New City) and La Goulette (the Port suburb).

#7: Dive deep into the South

The south of Tunisia is part of the Sahara Desert, the largest hot desert in the world. That’s why if you have a sense of adventure, or aiming to awaken one, then diving into the south of Tunisia is the tip for you.

Among exciting things to do are hiking through empty canyons, cruising on a quad or motorbike through sand dunes, and riding on a camel to a desert camp.

The south has an influence on modern culture as it inspires artists and movie directors from around the world. For exemple, Tatooine, the Skywalkers’ home planet in Star Wars, has the exact same architecture and a similar name to Tataouine, a town in the south.

Les Touristes Marchant Entre Les Maisons De La Planète Tatooine Pour Le Film Star Wars | Photo Premium

It’s also historically significant; the Jewish community in Djerba is one of the oldest in the world, while the Berber villages such as Chenini and Tamazret are home to the original inhabitants of North Africa. These Berber and Bedouin villages still live in a very traditional manner and the locals are very hospitable.

#8 : Don’t sleep on Sousse

During your trip to Tunisia, do not miss to visit Sousse, the coastal city of eastern Tunisia and magnificent capital of the Sahel region.

For the tourism amateurs, the private beaches of Sousse offer an excellent refuge. From Boujafar to the bay of Kantaoui, the luxurious beaches stretch as far as the eye can see.

The Grand Mosque in Sousse is one of the biggest monuments in the city. It dates back to the Aghlabid era and is located at the entrance to the medina. It’s emblematic of the city of Sousse and its architecture is based on arches and columns. 

La grande mosquée (Sousse, Tunisie) | La grande mosquée a ét… | Flickr

Another impressive landmark is The Amphitheater of El Jem. It’s located in El Jem, a small town 30 minutes away from Sousse. The Amphitheater is the largest colosseum in North Africa and could hold up to 35,000 spectators. You can visit the impressive ruins of this 3rd-century monument which illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome, and is a part of UNESCO’s world heritage center.

Pénétrez dans l'amphithéâtre tunisien d'El Jem, ce joyau hérité de la Rome antique

#9: Eat as much local food as you can

This also goes without saying, but a trip to any country is incomplete without tasting its local cuisine, so try to consume as much Tunisian food as you can. The culinary culture is so vast and diverse that you can often skip on your universal meals while you’re there.

Tunisian cuisine shares many similarities with its North African neighbors, but it’s spicier. This is due to the use of Harissa, a mixture of ground chili peppers, garlic, and spices. It’s the most important ingredient in many sauces and gravies and is the most commonly used condiment in Tunisian cuisine. It has also started to become more known in France lately.

Couscous, the staple North African dish, is a must try. You probably already know what it is, but in case you don’t, it refers to small granules of rolled durum wheat semolina cooked in a special double boiler, served with meat (lamb, beef, fish) and vegetables.

Tunisian Couscous - Traditional Tunisian Recipe | 196 flavors

Brik is another popular dish that can be made with a variety of  fillings like tuna, anchovies, chicken, raw egg, or ground meat. The fillings are wrapped in a thin pastry dough before being deep-fried.

Recette - Bricks au thon rapides en vidéo

Other must try foods include Fricassé (Balls of dough, traditionally of oval shape, first fried then split in two and stuffed with potato, harissa, tuna, black olives, hard-boiled egg, and slata méchouia. ), Mloukhiya (beef or lamb stew that is cooked in a very rich sauce made from dried Jew’s mallow powder with olive oil or sunflower oil), Lablabi (dish based on chick peas in a thin garlic and cumin-flavored broth, served over small pieces of stale crusty bread) and Tunisian salad (made essentially of tuna, eggs, cucumber, tomato, onions and olives with harissa).

#10: Travel on your own speed

Lastly, Travel for yourself: take cliche pictures if you like, buy souvenirs from gift shops and traditional clothing from the local market if that’s what you want. If you’re not interested in doing some popular activities that people do when they go to Tunisia, then don’t. People are different and so are their tastes.

So go with the flow and experience things that truly interest you and spark happiness within your being. After all, that is the essence of travel.

International Women’s Day

Like every year, the International Women’s Day will occur on March 8th.

International Women’s Day is one of the 140 international days held each by the UN. This day is dedicated to the fight against gender inequality faced by women. During this day, we promote women’s accomplishments, we collect donations in order to give it to associations fighting against women’s discrimination. We also organise events, conferences, and demonstrations to raise awareness about the discriminations faced by women across the world, and do lobbying to fight against those discriminations.

Each edition of the International Woman’s Day focuses on a different theme. This year, the theme will be ‘Break the bias‘, for a world without stereotypes, bias or discriminations.

The story of the International Woman’s Day

On February 28, 1909, the American Socialist Party organised the first national Women’s Day across the USA. In 1910, during the second International Conference of Working Women, Clara Zetkin proposed to honour an International Women’s Day each year. The members of the conference were   charmed by this idea and thus they created the International Women’s Day. This celebration was organised for the first time in 1911, one year after the conference, in 4 countries:Germany, , Austria, Switzerland  and Denmark.

In 1975, the International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by all the country members    of the United Nations, then officialised in 1977, making the International Women’s Day a global event, allowing us to review the situation of women’s right in the world, and to demonstrate for obtaining more.

Since 1996, the United Nations has used an annual theme to orientate actions towards a specific subject. The first time, it was ‘Celebrating the past, planning for the future‘.

Why do we need an International Women’s Day?

Because around the world, women are still victims of numerous discriminations, for example, 1 women out of 3 has been victim of physical or sexual violence, and 200 million have been subjected to genital mutilation. Because in 153 countries in the world, there are laws that discriminate against women in an economical way, in 18 of them, men can even legally forbid their wives to work.

Because, even nowadays, women suffer a lot of discriminations across the world, and that it’s necessary to fight to improve their conditions.

Who can participate in the International Women’s Day and how?

Everyone, including companies, medias, or even simple citizens, can participate in their own way in this event. If you wish to contribute to this event, you can do it in several ways. You can make a donation to an association, or participate in one of the numerous demonstrations that will take place in France that day, you will probably be able to find one close to your house. You can also go on the website dedicated to this event and browse the get involvedsection. There is a great number of activities available, from posting videos to participating in an event.

You can also send a picture of you crossing your arms to show your support, like in the picture below. You can submit your picture on the website dedicated to the event, in the section ‘theme’.

You can also post it on social media with the hashtags #IWD2022 and #BreakTheBias.

The IWD 2022 pose, submit your picture here : https://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme

Review : The Weeknd – Dawn FM

Two years after the resounding success of “After Hours”, Abel Tesfaye AKA The Weeknd is back with his fifth studio album entitled “Dawn FM” in which he switches from the bloodied and bandaged persona of After Hours to that of an octogenarian caught in some sort of music purgatory.

The album opens with the eponymous song “Dawn FM” which works as a reveal of the nature of the album; an 80s euphoria inspired album which brings the disco groove back -without making it seem as a cheap callback to the genre- mixed with RnB, Pop and Hip-Hop sonorities.

The record aims to be an experience, a one-hour movie, more than anything, and it succeeds in doing so with the bittersweet and groovy feeling beaming throughout the album, as well as the guests that bring life to the interludes, amongst whom Jim Carrey who stars as the radio host. The tracks are very well connected and it’s clear that the “single power” that we saw in After Hours was sacrificed for the overall homogeneity of the album, which makes for an overall better experience. The end of the record also shows a more upbeat and optimistic Abel, which is understandable given that the last album was documenting his fall all the way down to rock bottom. A miserable Abel like the one on After Hours would’ve just made this album a copycat and not an experience on its own right.

The first part of the album picks up where After Hours left, with the main character downhearted and surrounded by drugs and women. “It’s 5 AM, I’m high again // And you can see that I’m in pain” from “Gasoline” and ”When you cry and say you miss me // I lie and tell you that I’ll never leave” from “Sacrifice” show the womanizing drug addict that wanted to conquer California in the previous album, but ended up lost and empty inside. The first interlude of the album, “A Tale by Quincy”, stars music producer Quincy Jones narrating the events of the main character’s life and giving us an insight into his past trauma that led to him being who he is today. It bled into my relationships with family and those I had become romantically involved with” finally sees the character self-reflecting.

After the interlude, the second part of the album kicks off with “Out of Time”, a love ballad that starts with “The last few months, I’ve been workin’ on me, baby // There’s so much trauma in my life”. The next tracks highlight this toxic relationship furthermore. “But I know you’re right for me // Ecstasy // I keep coming back for more” in “Don’t Break My Heart” shows that Abel keeps repressing the idea of love while constantly craving it, and “I heard you’re married, girl // I knew that this was too good to be true” in “I Heard you’re Married” shows him realizing that he lost the girl. The defeat is finally accepted in one of the biggest highlights of the album: the more upbeat “Less than Zero”. He accepts his true self, “I’ll always be less than zero”, which means that he’ll always be a cold-hearted person. This acceptance alongside the track’s lively energy symbolizes the first steps to transition from dark to light.

The album caps off with a memorable Jim Carrey performance; “Phantom Regret By Jim” distills the essence of the album into a poem that conveys a clear message of hope and paves the way to what comes next. “Heaven’s for those who let go of regret” teaches closure and highlights Abel’s journey all the way to “Less than Zero”. The last sentence, “You gotta be Heaven to see Heaven // May peace be with you” teaches self-acceptance, which is the only key to finding happiness.

The imagery is also strong, but subtle, in the album. The title “Dawn” means a new beginning for the Weeknd. After all the heartbreak and sorrow that defined his previous era, the new album allows him to get out of that feeling of isolation and explore more positive notes. Abel also references in interviews the album concept as “purgatory”, a place between heaven and hell, dark and light. The album is comparable to driving your car down a tunnel with the aim to get out of it and into the light, and the positive energy towards the second part of the album makes purgatory sound good, but it’s still purgatory because it’s still dawn. Abel also says that this album could potentially be a start to a trilogy, one where we see him continue in the direction he took towards the end.

The themes that the Weeknd uses in the album are his usual themes, except love ballads are found more often than sex music and male misery, the latter being almost non-existent. This doesn’t really take away anything from the album considering its general concept. The interludes are also very well placed and help connect the album. However, A big low for the album were the featurings with Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne. Tyler’s verse in “Here We go… Again”-while enjoyable- waters down Abel’s approach to the song and feels out of place with the general tone while Lil Wayne’s performance in “I Heard you’re Married” is arguably one of his worst ever.

“Dawn FM” gives off a defying vibe: that of an artist who’s sitting atop the mountain of success in the music industry but decides in a fit of pure ambition to release a concept album which differs greatly from the albums he put out before. The album doesn’t have all the ingredients that we generally associate with the Weeknd and that’s why most fans enjoyed it less than the critics did. But perhaps that was the goal: to make his fans get out of the comfort zone just like he did, and perhaps we should start putting the Weeknd among the artists who don’t need every new album they release to be compared to the rest of their catalogue.

Inside the criminal mind : the review

In honor of the spooky season that has just passed, today’s topic of discussion is not for the faint-hearted. Let us talk about the Netflix mini-series « inside the criminal mind. » This mini-documentary goes into detail about profiling a criminal and the reasons as to why these people did what they did.

The first person interviewed in the first episode is profiling division FBI agent Mullany. He said: » When you look at the development of serial killers, they often come from pretty broken homes. » Absent fathers, dominant mothers, and more than often, serial killers let out the repulsion towards the dominant mother by murdering women in the future.

What are the signs of a serial killer?

Many theories try to predict and profile psychopaths and serial killers. One of these theories is the triad of the homicidal personality that is made up of three elements. The first element is being a bed wetter, the second is being a fire setter, and the third is being an animal killer. These things would give any professional a lead. This theory applied to some serial killers such as Ted Bundy. However, the theory lost credibility soon after.

Most serial killers have had a dysfunctional childhood that provided a lack of empathy which is the primary sign of a psychopath. That being said, not all psychopaths are criminals, but most serial killers are.

The first serial killer that was talked about in the documentary was the infamous Ted Bundy, who was born to a single mother. He grew up surrounded by lies, thinking that his mother was his sister. Once he grew up, Bundy murdered 30 women and compared his serial killing to stamp collecting.

Meeting a serial killer

Coming face to face with a serial killer might leave two impressions: the surprise that they look normal and the surprise that they are even condescending. These people are strikingly successful in life. They can be well educated and quite appealing to others during the day. However, at night, they turn to serial killing to satisfy their fantasies.

John Wayne Gasey, the infamous killer clown, was mentioned in the documentary. He is a case in point. A born salesman, he could talk his way in and out of any situation. A respected member of the community, he often dressed as a clown for kids’ birthday parties which earned him the name ‘the killer clown.’ He was desperate for his fathers’ attention.

Was it a dreadful childhood that turned these people into serial killers?

That is a question often asked throughout the episode; why is it that of two children who suffered the same traumatic childhood, one will cope, and the other will kill?

This question has been highly debated for over a decade. Is someone born a criminal? Does one become one with time?In the new field of neuro-criminology, cutting-edge technology has been trying to determine if some people are predisposed to violent behavior at birth.

The recent research seems favorable to the idea that a predisposition to particular abnormal behavior might exist.

A study by the neurologist Adrian Raine was mentioned, observing the brain of murderers, psychopaths, and serial killers. Their brains were observed to be different from ordinary people with diminished activities in the brain in the areas of sensitivity to  self-awareness.

Serial killers are calm, methodical, and cold. They have a high functioning prefrontal cortex but a low functioning amygdala; This is the seat of emotion involving empathy and remorse. It could account for why they kill without guilt or remorse.

So the long-running question remains, is it nature? Or nurture?

Doctors have concluded that criminal behavior cannot be solely justified by the neuro-anatomy and biology of the brain. However, the environment certainly affects one’s behavior. Therefore, people are not born evil.

It is probably more likely to be a combination of the two; they may have some predisposition that the person is born with, but the environment also contributes to those elements.

What goes through the mind of a killer?

The documentary does a deep dive into what goes on in these criminals’ minds.

According to psychologists, there are several phases that a serial killer goes through. The first is the aura phase, where the killer begins to their lose grip on reality. It is the fantasy that goes on in their head before doing anything. Some may medicate with drinks and drugs, but they may want to act out their fantasies when they enter the trolling phase. Trolling involves looking for a location or a victim type that would seem to match the killer’s fantasy.

Let us say the victim type would be a blond-haired woman with blue eyes, for example. Having gone through the choice of the location and the victim, the criminal goes through the wooing phase, where they lure the victim in. Once the serial killer has their victim, they go onto the next phase: The capture phase. The killer’s mask finally comes off. The murder phase is described as the ritual reuniting of the killers’ childhood with roles now reversed.

They are in control and can do with their victim what they will. Torture, degradation and sexual abuse often lead up to murder.

Some offenders might want to stay with the body postmortem. The next phase after the murder is known as the totem phase. One of the common things seen within serial killers is that they love to keep trophies. The killer often gathers a souvenir from their  victims or even body parts to preserve that feeling of power and control.

After the kill, the excitement is over, and the serial killer returns from their fantasy to reality. Depression is likely to set in. Part of the reason most offenders do it again is because once they attain the behavior that matches their fantasy, they may become depressed. After all, it did not live up to what they hoped it would be. This is why they might take notes or make videos of the offense to refine the behavior further to meet the fantasy. As a result, the killer can become so depressed that they may attempt suicide.

Their fantasy will grow and become more real, and they start planning their next murder, and the vicious cycle repeats itself.

More than meets the eye

This mini-series makes the watcher realize that there is more to a criminal than meets the eye. There is a series of neuropathological and environmental causes that alters the judgment of a criminal. However, that fact does not excuse nor justify the atrocious things that some people do. This article was a deep dive into the mind of a serial killer. However, that was only the first episode! Tune in for more episodes that talk about kidnappers, cult leaders, and mobsters.

From Casablanca to Grenoble : Interview with a Moroccan student at Polytech

As a foreign student myself, I found it interesting to try to get to know how it’s been for others who have been more or less in the same situation I’ve been in since coming to France. Finding a foreign student to interview in Grenoble doesn’t amount to rocket science, so it’s safe to say I’ve had my options here at Polytech.

Anwar is a third-year IESE student from Casablanca, Morocco. This is his first year at Polytech Grenoble, but he’s been in Grenoble – and France- for more than two years now. After getting his baccalaureate in 2019, he traveled from his native country to France in order to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in industrial science. He applied for Polytech at the end of his second year and got accepted for the three-year engineering curriculum.

Choosing the major, and the school

Anwar studies computer science and electronics for embedded systems, which he chose because he opted for electrical instead of mechanical engineering back when he was a first-year student. He considers tech to be such a big and ever-changing domain, as well as the biggest industry in the world. One can’t deny the last statement, with GAMAM (Google, Amazon, Meta, Apple, and Microsoft) being a solid testament to its veracity. In his own words, “in embedded systems, you work with both hardware and software to create such marvelous things”. If those aren’t the words of a passionate man…

The decision to switch from a normal university to an engineering school is one he took a while back, as he considers an engineer diploma to hold more value than a standard Master’s from uni. He chose Polytech Grenoble because the IESE program was one that suited him perfectly, and allowed him to stay in the city he loves.

Coming to France for the first time

Now obviously acclimated to France and Grenoble, Anwar came quite a long way and endured many a hassle before getting to where he is now. Moving alone across countries as a high school graduate is a hard experience, but what makes it even harder is when you do it when you’re 17. As a minor, getting an apartment alone is very hard, while opening a bank account and getting a part-time job are simply impossible. Luckily, he did speak French already and had an uncle in Paris, but things were complicated as he was quite busy with work.

Living a unique first year in France

As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also part of the “cursed” class as it is referred to in our countries; the class that came in the summer of 2019, months before the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, borders got closed, so he couldn’t book his yearly summer trip to go back home but found consolation in discovering Grenoble even further with his friends. He did go back home in the summer of 2021, nearly
two years after leaving.

Life at Polytech

At Polytech, he participates in many extracurricular activities and lately took part in a challenge organized during the “Journée Polytech Pro”. The challenge, which took place two weeks ago, consisted in finding solutions to existing problems such as polluted oceans for example, and his team ended up winning first place. As a result, his first impression on the school is a very good one, and he thinks he’ll graduate with everything he needs in order to get into the job market.

His current situation…

Two years later, he still misses his family sometimes but says he puts things in perspective by always remembering the first lockdown back in 2020, when he was alone and panicking in his studio. Today, he’s doing fine at Polytech and has a part-time job. He also got fairly attached to the city, which is stress-free according to him, and the traffic jam isn’t as bad as Casablanca, the city he grew up in.

… and his future ambitions

Regarding the future, his short-term goal is to just succeed this semester by passing each course and participate in more projects that would help expand his engineering culture. Also, he plans on doing a semester abroad to improve his English and discover another culture, among other things.