Vienneau (vienneau) wrote,

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My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria

(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria. Should the situation change or any breakthroughs be achieved, I will post it here*)



My sister, Jacqueline "Nicole" Vienneau, a Canadian tourist, disappeared in Syria on Saturday, March 31st, 2007 at the age of 32. She was in her fifth month of a six-month solo adventure through West Africa and the Middle East. She was last seen by the desk clerk at 8:30 in the morning as she left the Cairo Hotel in Hama, two hours north of Damascus.


She definitely intended to return to the hotel as her backpack was left in her room along with the memory cards from her camera, full of photos. She also left her journals that include an entry made the night before she disappeared. Canadian police retrieved her Hotmail account email records indicating she attempted to login around 8:30 Friday night but was unable to (Syrian Internet connections are not reliable). Her last completed emails were sent Thursday night.

Nicole's guidebook was also left in her room. In the back of her Lonely Planet "Middle East" guidebook she wrote directions to a number of places in Syria that we believe she copied from the Cairo Hotel's copy of the Lonely Planet "Syria" guidebook. Nicole spoke with some guests about these locations earlier in the week and the hotel clerk indicated that on the morning she disappeared, she asked for directions to the "Beehive Houses", a local sightseeing destination, as well as Qasr Ibn Wardan (a nearby castle).


No one at these locations recalls seeing Nicole (and they are not heavily visited) and the Qasr Ibn Wardan logbook has a record of only one visitor, Amin Ben Yahia, a person of interest to us (b. 1984, Algerian/Swiss nationality, father is Abbas, mother is Monica) in hopes that he remembers something unusual about that day.  UPDATE:  On January 19th, 2019, Amine contacted me.  He does not remember anything unusual.

Nicole preferred taking local transit, but none of the minibus drivers or locals remembers seeing her. As a foreigner, Nicole stood out in all of Syria, but particularly in Hama where the majority of women in Hama dress in robes and cover their hair. The streets from the hotel to the minibus pick-up are main streets with lots of people, even at 8:30 in the morning.


In May 2007, I flew to Syria with Nicole's fiancé Gary to re-trace her steps and meet with police and local officials. Gary spent an additional two months criss-crossing Syria searching for clues. My mother joined Gary in Syria in July 2007 and met with the Grand Mufti as well as the Minister of the Interior. She also made a personal plea on Syrian television and we put ads in the newspapers and local flyers. Gary and my mother returned to Syria in April 2008 to raise awareness and follow up on leads with officials and the police.

My mother returned to Syria with Gary for a third visit in March 2009 and we continue to work with Syrian government and police officials on the investigation.

There is up to 2,250,000 Syrian pounds ($45,000) in reward money for information leading us to Nicole.

We are currently looking for other guests at the Cairo Hotel in case they spoke with Nicole. A list is at the bottom of this page.


For pictures of Nicole and what she was wearing when she disappeared, as well as relevant personal information and summaries of the search so far, please visit:

From the "official" website, you can also submit anonymous tips, view the picture gallery and download posters and Nicole's notes. Arabic versions of most pages are also available.

You can always email me directly and anonymously at

All comments and emails, public and private, are read immediately, but unfortunately I cannot respond to everyone. Feel free to respond in any language that you're comfortable with, though all of my responses will likely be in English.


March 31st, 2012 (Afternoon):

Today marks five years since Nicole disappeared from the Cairo Hotel or in the vicinity in Hama. Despite five years of searching, we really have no new clues as to what has happened to her, though we strongly suspect one of the hotel staff was involved.

Syria today is very different from Syria of five years ago. There are certainly no tourists in Hama anymore, and there probably won't be any going there in the immediate future either.

Hollywood tells us that stories always have an ending, but unfortunately that's just not true. In those first few weeks we were so confident we'd figure out what happened. And then as each lead dried up the worry in the back of our minds increased, "what if we never find her?". That has turned out to be the case and we may end up being one of those families still searching 20 or 30 years later. You can never really give up.

An old friend of Nicole's has been putting huge amounts of effort into finding her. He's been posting on Twitter and updating a blog with details. You can read some updates here, here, and here.

Other people continue to offer suggestions and take action. It is very difficult to keep up hope after so much time has passed. All we need is one person who knows or suspects what happens to come to us, but they'll probably be in Syria and unlikely to have access to us anymore. Hopefully one day.

March 6th, 2012 (Afternoon):

Canada has withdrawn all diplomats and government staff from Syria. All Canadians have been urged to leave Syria. As per the official Government of Canada Travel Report:

"Civil unrest and demonstrations have been occurring in many Syrian cities since March 2011. There has been extensive use of force by the security forces and military in suppressing demonstrations across the country. Many casualties and fatalities have been reported and protests and violent repression are likely to continue. Security operations have involved the complete lock-down of entire towns for periods varying from a few days to a few weeks. This may take place with little warning."

Needless to say, our hopes of getting any information about what happened to Nicole have diminished greatly in the short term.

February 11th, 2012 (Morning):

Syria continues to be in the news as world opinion is slowly being swayed by the stories of what is happening. Once again, no progress on our search as we approach nearly five years since Nicole went missing. To think that at first I thought this could be resolved in five days or at worse, five weeks!

January 7th, 2012 (Afternoon):

Another month of chaos in Syria. In early 2011, the violence in Syria wasn't making the international news very frequently, but that has certainly changed. It is not surprising that we have heard nothing from Syrian officials, Canadian embassy officials, or our own contacts within Syria. This makes it difficult to move forward in the search.

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Tags: jacqueline nicole vienneau missing syria
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Dear Matt,

I've seen your new website it's ok for a start,
But, you should have the latest info on it like this blog,
I still want to help in translating this new site into Arabic
If you are interested please let me know,

These blog information are important I wish I caould help in translating
then into Arabic to be in reach of most Syrian population.

we pray everyday for Nicole.
good lock


I thing you Blog

Dear Matt,

I've seen your new website it's ok for a start,
But, you should have the latest info on it like this blog,
I still want to help in translating this new site into Arabic
If you are interested please let me know,

These blog informations are important I wish I could help in translating
then into Arabic to be in reach of most Syrian population.

we pray everyday for Nicole.

good lock Matt

Your new web site doesn't work under firefox; I can't click any links in the menu...

Thank you for pointing this out. I've sent a message to our tech guys to confirm and correct.

Re: new web site - doesn't work


12 years ago



June 4 2007, 00:21:52 UTC 12 years ago

I am originally Syrian but have not lived there since I was a kid. The bedouins do have a different lifestyle than the ordinary Syrians in that they are nomads. They live (or used to live) in tents in the desert and tend to sheep. Even though they may not be considered sophisticated by some Syrians, the impression is that they do not have criminal tendencies. They are just very simple people.
Because they live in the desert in harsh environment, they are known for helping each other and other people so that the favours could be returned when they are in need. I do not believe there are any tensions between them and the authorities. However, I think some of them might be a bit isolated. Someone previously commented that everyone in Syria has a satellite and gets aljazeera. Heshe was wrong..the bedouins don't! If Nicole was in trouble and they found her they probably would be helping her.

Re: Bedouins


June 4 2007, 01:04:46 UTC 12 years ago

Also, check this link: - 22k
It is a girl who lived with the Syrian bedouins and loved them so much she kept returning to visit. I truly believe if Nicole was with them she would be safe.
Good luck.

Re: Bedouins


12 years ago

It seems most cities have an arabic community, usually can find them via their church. I have been emailing Nicholes missing posters to arabic churches in my area, maybe others can do the same. This may also help with Matt's thoughts on the Bedouin people. You never know maybe someone has a long lost relative still living the Nomad life, we may end up with a contact.
It is unlikely that a nomad would make it to Canada..also they are muslims so their relatives would not be attending church.
She has made Canadian national news, thank goodness. My heart goes out to you, wishing her safe return!

Fox News


June 5 2007, 00:24:49 UTC 12 years ago

The American media will spare no effort in making Syria look bad and hence their interest in your story. Just make sure they are not using you as a propaganda tool.
The article in Middle East times (published from Tel Aviv) was also hinting that Syria is a bad place to travel to.
Fact is Syria is one of the safest places to be..things like that are unheard of..
Dear Matthew
I was just informed that Nicole is your sister... We had heard the tragic story out here on the West Coast, but I did not make the connection. I would like to encourage you to keep your Fighting Spirit armed and ready for action; be brave in the face of adversity and continue exploring all the leads/suggestions/hunches you've been getting. There's much to be said for the incredible effects of positive thinking. We can only hope and pray that this crisis is resolved as soon as possible, with the safe and expedient return of Nicole. Our thoughts and encouragement are with you and your family.

Jenn Fort (Jenny Alderson)


June 5 2007, 05:35:49 UTC 12 years ago

Some tips

1. Web site of Hama
On the web site of Hama there is a list of all the important sites. There are 13 castles (not all easily accessible), among which is Shmemis. The castle is accessible through a small highway, but visitors need to climb a hill afterwards.

2. Iexplore Community
I googled "Cairo hotel, Syria" I found a list of popular sites to visit in Hama, you should take a look

3. Web site of the Ministry of tourism
Here is the web site of the Ministry of tourism in Syria, and here is an explanation of sites in central regions (Hama and Homs)

Also Citadels in Hama

4. Tourist agents
May be you should start inquiring at Travel agencies (tourist agents) in Hama (popular ones) to see if any of their guides met or saw Nicole alone or with other tourists at sites or organized trips. If they accept, distribute the posters at their offices.
Here is a list of the ones in Hama provided by the Ministry's web site.



June 5 2007, 13:21:30 UTC 12 years ago


I visited Qala'at Schmimis last winter. It's easy to go there, taking a microbus from the microbus garaj, in Hama, to As Salamiyah (about 3/4 hour). Once in As Salamiyah, the castle is a small hour of walking from the center of the town. The castle is alone in the fields, on a hill. It is a small one, very ruined. You can see it, just west of As Salamiyah, on Google Earth : it's a hill with a big "WELCOME" written on its slope with stones.

As Salamiyah is a small town where many Bedouins come for trading, maybe it could be useful to ask to some important Bedouins if they can collect informations among the families settling in the area.

From Hama, through As Salamiyah and As Sa'an, there are some buses going to Ar Raqqa, about 200 km eastwards : these buses ride just along Ar Rassafah, a well-known ruined city in the desert, just 30 km south of Al Mansurah (on the main road Aleppo-Ar Raqqa). There are also trucks on that road and a rest-place for them on the crossing with the main road in Al Mansurah (30 -40 km before Ar Raqqa). This road is not an usual one for the tourists and I've never seen in books that there were buses between Ar Raqqa an As Salamiyah (I just discover this this winter). On maps, this road is still indicated as a "track". There are just three or four small villages along, between As Sa'an and Ar Rassafah. So if someone could place some posters on the crossing of Al Mansurah (rest-place) or in the two Garaj (bus an microbus stations) in Ar Raqqa, and in As Salamiyah, just in case... These places are meeting points between the Bedouins and the people of towns.

I hope this could be useful for your quest.


Are you aware about this link ?

No I wasn't - thanks for pointing it out. I wish it included a link to the web page!

Re: syria-news link


12 years ago


June 6 2007, 02:41:03 UTC 12 years ago

I will be in Syria soon and I'll print out Jacqueline's photo to keep with me during my trip in Syria.
Hi, My name is Rouand, and I am from Syria. I live in Damascus

I couldn't read all comments, as the number is quite huge.

I know that so much time has passed since your beloved sister has dissipated, i was really shocked to read about the incident.

I really don't want to add any more theories about her disappearance, and only pray that she is OK. and that someday she will return back to Canada for the sake of her parents, friends, Canadians, and the Syrian people.

Let's hope for the best.

Rouand SIDO



June 7 2007, 17:01:19 UTC 12 years ago

I have noticed on the guest list,few americans that had a syrian residency,it only means couple thing,either they are syrian origin visiting syria with american passport(unlikely) or they are americans working in syria (thats how they obtained syrian residency),the reason they show there residency ,is to get low fares as syrian resident instead of paying high tourist fare...this shouldn't be hard to find out,who they are.
it is most likely she was talking to those 7 people (i think they are family or close friend,they checked same date under same statue)cause they lived long enough in syria and have knowledge of surroundings.(cathrine powers-william powers-rona diger-david-mardos fakse-cathrine lu-barbara lu)by the way i think mardos fakse sounds more like an arab name to me than american....

Re: notes


June 8 2007, 09:55:15 UTC 12 years ago

Wonder if that group of people could be teachers - working at an international school maybe - or students of Arabic. Anyone want to try to send an email to international schools in Damascus asking them to look at this website? How about Arabic language schools in Syria - anyone have a contact that could post this web page on their message boards?
Hi, Glad you took my previous advice about distributing business cards with her photo on. Do they also have milk cartons in Syria with missing faces on - could be worthwhile exporing.

Sorry to explore this option, but have you visited the local morgues in the regions she was missing?

Did she have her passport with her or has it been found?

As for the guest lists of names, couldn't the airlines help you track these individuals? Taking into account they could of backpacked their way to Syria, rather than taking a direct flight - so could be difficult.

If the airlines aren't helpful, what about checking with Student/Backpacker discount ISIC and sending them the details of the guests to see if they have them on their DB's. If they can't disclose the info maybe they could contact them on your behalf,

Also they have offices in Syria, perhaps contacting them and seeing how they can help you with advice on where to look/who to contact:

What about checking with HI (Hostelling International) also,

Hope this helps,
One other thing, what about contacting travel agencies like STA Travel. They can place her missing poster in their offices and give out your business cards to travellers to Syria...worth a try!


12 years ago

Haddad Pension "Just like staying at grandma's place." sounds like the place Nicole wrote about staying at.

Quoted from the Lonely Planet website pages

Haddad Pension
Tel: 06 03 507 709 (info)
Tel: 06 03 507 709 (info)

That sounds like exactly the right place. I've updated the itinerary to show that we've answered that question.