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The Beginning Of My Ascendance
April 22nd, 2007
10:59 am


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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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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 mattv99@hotmail.com

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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Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Gerard McMann - "Cry Little Sister"

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Date:May 12th, 2007 06:51 am (UTC)

your sister its very cute

hello there
i hope you will find it qiukly as you can
i know its hard feelling for you but wash you will meet har soon
syrian guys not bad they are very helpfull dont wary if she was in syria they will find it

Date:May 12th, 2007 08:45 am (UTC)

call them, email them with links

Hi, please my fellow Syrians, the best way to help now is to mobilise the officials, here is the contacts for the ministry of tourism:

Damascus tel:
country code/ Damascus code: 0096311
then dial
either one of these numbers
call them, email them with links, they sure need to be responsive to this seriuos issue, I realy hope she is found.
Date:May 12th, 2007 09:47 am (UTC)

Good bless her

Hi, my name is Elias, me and all my freinds from Damascus want to inform you that we are praying for her, Muslims and Christians, we would like to inform you as well that we love all ppl from all around the world and we really wish that Nicole will join the family soon, maybe we can't do alot but we think of you and we're praying for you... Good luck, God be with you.

Elias, Damascus, Syria
Date:May 12th, 2007 10:33 am (UTC)

Solidarity and wishes from the heart - From Zman

I am a Syrian and reading your journal makes my heart aches. I have two sisters and I love them so much; I understand how you feel. I have had many foreign friends in Syria; they always felt safe and welcomed there. Believe me, it is very unusual for a foreigner to go missing in our country; I'm pretty sure the authorities are taking this issue very seriously and they that will help you. Syria has always been such a safe and friendly destination for tourists and adventurers.
Whenever I saw a lonely female tourist in Syria I had great respect for her; I had great respect for the fact that she chose to come to Syria on her own in spite of all the stereotypes about the Middle East.
I pray for her safety and for her return; I will pray for her return every morning.
God bless Nicole.
Date:May 12th, 2007 11:16 am (UTC)
Dear matt
a new website has published the story..
here is the link
the story is copied from the syria-news site.. but this site also is commonly used by lots of people.
hoping that we hear some good news about her soon.
Date:May 12th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC)

call Syrian TV HELP

Hey Syrian guys , cut the crap and do some real help, call the tv show for missing people, Khabrny ya teer, call Bassam Abedl Mageed,minister of the interior, emotional outbursts are useless here.
Date:May 12th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)


DEAR Vienneau:
Date:May 12th, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)

syrian lives in london

my thoughts with you and the family and i hope that she will return safe ,and whats happening now will be a memory
i have the feeling that she is coming back .
Date:May 12th, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC)


Dear Mathew, as a Syrian living and working in Canada I feel so bad about your sister. I have the feeling that she is still alive. Canadians are peacful people and so Syrians. We all pray to keep your sister safe and healthy. Nicole all of our hearts and souls praying for you. God Bless you.
Date:May 13th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)

The Toronto Star

Hey Matt: I just read the article about your sister in the Star. My thoughts and prayers are with you. You're a great brother! Travel safe and bring her home! Deb Barnard
Date:May 13th, 2007 06:22 am (UTC)

Syrian Guy

hi every one , i am from syria - lattakia .. i heard about this story from www.syria-news.com .. i have some friends from hama .. i will contact them , maybe they can help .. & i am sure that all syrians will help ..
i Hope to Find your sister matt .
Good Luck
Date:May 13th, 2007 07:38 am (UTC)

I pry for Nicole

I was reading every update you do in this site regarding Nicole.
A month ago we had 2 Russians get lost in Jordan one been found after 3 hours of intensive search and the other only after 6 days. They been in Hamamat Main walking in the Wadi (canyon) and we had in that day heavy rains in the high lands and the 2 persons didn't realize that they are in danger, within few minutes the flood came and take them away for a long distance from the place they been.
This could happened in the Syria as well.
Another thing there is forest as I can see from google earth within 16 Km from the place she despaired could be possibility that she get lost in that please as well.
Also ask the locals if there are some caves within the area, from my experience with working with tourist they get very attracted to get to these caves and may get stuck in them.
I am reading your updates daily and prying to get the good news by finding Nicole.

Date:May 13th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC)

I don't think she's kidnapped

Hello, I felt so sorry when I read about Nicole, I hope she comes out safe and alive. I live in Damascus and I don't think she is kidnapped because we don't have this thing in Syria. I just fear that she might have stumbled and fell in a deserted area, but I really pray she is OK and hope you find her soon.
Date:May 13th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)

All syria people with you

Hello ,we are sorry about your sister and we will search about it
if we found any information about him ,we will send it to you
the god with you
Date:May 14th, 2007 11:32 am (UTC)
I really wish she is safe , and return to you in the near future.
but in that area where did she go there were a great flood and a very bad weather .
read this ( in arabic)http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=53526
our hearts are with you
Date:May 16th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
This was at the end of April according to the article. The location is Palmyra which is not close to Hama.
Date:May 14th, 2007 11:47 am (UTC)

Hope you will find your sister very soon


My name is Osama,I live Syria Damascus... I am really sorry for this.. I just want to pray and ask God that she will be okay.

Date:May 15th, 2007 07:28 am (UTC)

We all must helpful

Dears ....
I'm An Eng. Alaa Eldeen Nakshy
E.mail: alaa77n@hotmail.com
We are in syria so sad about this news, and we all must be ready to provide all possible help till we can find Nicole Vienneau ...
God help us to find here ,And Hope we can do anything with good people here to find here ...
best regards
look to hear about good news
Great thank's for any one who do anything or any effort in like this humanitarian work ...

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