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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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

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Date:June 20th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)

keep the faith

as a female who loves to travel, your sister's disappearance has touched me hugely. i contributed to your trust fund, wish there was more i could do to help. i dearly hope your sister will be found safe and soon. don't give up hope.
Date:June 20th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)

hotel guests

Maybe we could assign one name from the guest list to each person that wanted to help look, that way no names will get missed and no name will be searched twice. There are lots of name directory's for each country.
Date:June 21st, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC)
Hey, I've been following your story. This is really heartbreaking.

I have a suggestion -- it might be helpful if you make a new post for each update, instead of editing the old post. That way the people who have added you as a friend can see the new info on their friends page instead of having to come here to see updates.
[User Picture]
Date:June 21st, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)

There are a couple of reasons why I haven't done what you've suggested:

1) When I started, I didn't expect a single post and update would turn into what it has, so I didn't plan ahead too well. Having started with this method and provided a very specific link (this entry only) to many, many websites and posters, I can't change the link without confusing people - even a simple "Now Go Here" link on the former posting page would lose some readers.

2) The forums would be spread out over dozens of updates, so people wouldn't be able to read what has and hasn't been said before in one easy location.

3) Each entry would have to have the photo and specific details repeated (at least in the first month until we had the official website up).

In essence, LiveJournal isn't the best mechanism for what we are now trying to accomplish, though it would have been much more suitable had I understood what I was getting into when I started and planned accordingly.

And of the thousands of people who have read this page, only a few dozen have Live Journal accounts, so changing everything now wouldn't benefit enough people to be worth the effort and confusion.

That being said, I'm often quite tempted as the "April 22nd" date on the main page confuses people, and each entry would load much faster if it were smaller and had fewer comments.
Date:June 22nd, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)

Hi Matt and Family

I've been following this since the first post and randomly, just now I've run into a Yahoo story about this here:


I'm not sure if you know about it, I just found it myself. I read Yahoo news daily and never saw it on there till bringing up a Yahoo search engine (out of a bunch of Syrian search engines) and searching for "Vienneau" just to give it a shot.


P.S. The spreadsheet info I sent you for Ms. Lu, many entries don't have telephone numbers. I've looked at the three that match the birthdate of 1950 and can't find telephone numbers for them online anywhere, unfortunately. :( I'm sorry.
[User Picture]
Date:June 23rd, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Hi Matt and Family


Hello Jess,

This is a copy of the Canadian Press article from a few weeks ago. It's sent out on the wire and news agencies across Canada (and apparently around the world) can pick up the stories and publish them. It's good to see that it was picked up by Yahoo - a bit more exposure never hurts.
Date:June 25th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)

Hotel Riad guest

I have been following your quest to find your sister for the past two months. I checked over the Riad Hotel's guest list (Mar 31) and attempted to find a 'Kazaban' on Canada 411. The surname it seems does not exist anywhere in Canada But there is a "Kasaban" in Montreal. Perhaps worth a try.
Kanthasami Kasaban
690 Av Ogilvy
Montreal, QC H3N 1N5
(514) 271-6103
Good Luck!
Date:June 26th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
Just a quick mention in the New York Times, might spur on more interest:
Date:June 27th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)


Interesting that they mentioned Nicole's name in the article but did not link to the story further outside of that from what I can see. NY Times is weird. :\

No updates for a couple days, hope everything is still okay.

Date:June 27th, 2007 02:52 pm (UTC)

Please View Personal Email

Dear Matt: Please kindly view your personal email, as I have sent a personal email regarding some type of support that may be time sensitive to your side that I would like to kindly assist with.

Date:June 29th, 2007 06:34 am (UTC)

Helping by searching for one person

Matt, thank you for posting the names of people from the hotels -- and for sharing each time someone has been located. This have given me insight into how I can personally help.

I have picked a name from the lists and have turned Sherlock Holmes on the internet....

If we all did this, I'm sure we'd find more people who may have seen Nicole that day.
Date:June 29th, 2007 06:37 am (UTC)

Re: Helping by searching for one person

Oh, forgot to mention that the name I am searching for is Jessy Alexander, a Canadian.

And, in case it helps anyone thinking of doing the same, here is what I have posted in some online forums and such (feel free to copy and repurpose!):

We are seeking to locate Jessy Alexander who stayed in the Riad Hotel in Hama, Syria on or about April 1, 2007. Born in Canada in 1980, resides in Canada, holds a Canadian passport.

This is in relation to a missing persons case in Syria. Jessy stayed at the same hotel as Nicole Vienneau, the woman who has gone missing. Her family is anxious to speak with people she may have met in her travels, especially on the day she was last seen.
Date:July 1st, 2007 01:35 am (UTC)

Arabic website

Dear Matt,

I'm waiting for another pages to translate,
Please feel free to send whatever you think needs translation.

bon courage...

Date:July 1st, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)

I can help updaying/maintaining the site

Dear Matt,

I can see how much work you already have despite maintaining the site
I can help you in updating the site to have it's Arabic version ready,
but you told me earlier that the site is borrowed from another company
If you provide me with access to it's c-panel I'll do the update myself
I know it might sound weired to give some stranger c-panel access,

but believe me I have access to many sites i already build like this


I can see that until now you couldn't find the time to update the site
to Arabic, that's why I'm offering help.

If you feel you could trust me, here are some info that might break the ice:
my mobile phone no : 00963 933 599 475
my home phone no : 00963 11 662 4083
my resume can be found here:

Please reply A.S.A.P

Date:July 4th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)

The Arabic translation

The FAQ is translated well
The Can you help is uploaded incorrectly and cannot be read.
Date:July 11th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)

Virtual Tourist

Hey Matt,

I have put your blog link and information on my Virtual Tourist page. We are number 18 on the site so it should generate some views. Don't bother responding, I know you are swamped. Just letting you know.

Date:July 11th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)

Virtual Tourist

Hey Matt,

I have put your blog link and information on my Virtual Tourist page. We are number 18 on the site so it should generate some views. Don't bother responding, I know you are swamped. Just letting you know.


Here is the link: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/92cd3/
Date:July 11th, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)

Link to latest National Post article

Hi Matt,

Found the link to Monday's article in the National Post:
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC)

Re: Link to latest National Post article

Great job. I'm not sure why it doesn't show up when you search on "Vienneau". Search algorithms never seem to work right for me.
Date:July 13th, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)

Al-Watan article

Here is where you can find Al-Watan article:

It is on the first page and there is a coloured picture of Nicole (bottom left)

Basically it says the following:

Title: One million pounds to whoever finds young canadian woman Nicole.

It is a strange case that never happened before in Syria. At the end of last March a young Canadian woman who's name is JNV disappeared. K.M, her mom, has come to Syria to look for her along with NV's fiancee G.S. and her husband B.M. Nicole was seen for the last time leaving a Hama hotel at 9:00 AM March 31. She planned a discovery trip around the area and left her belongings in the hotel but never came back in the evening.
The mother, Katherine, whom Al-Watan met in the house of the Canadian ambassador on her way back from hama, in a trip in which she failed to find out the fate of her daughter said:" my daugher disappeared after she left the hotel on a trip to Qasar Wardan and the forgotten cities" and noted that the family is very close and that she "is" [was] in daily contact with her daughter by e-mail and weekly over the phone. She said that Nicole loved Syria in every way: the people, the food and all the places. She called onto the Syrian people to help her in her search for Nicole and if anyone saw her or her belongings:her hat, her camera, her bag and anything related to her to call the Canadian Embassy in Syria or the family. She noted that the Syrian people are very concerned about the case and that the authorities are taking it very seriously but that this matter needs more effort. She said:" I will return to Syria if need be"
Nicole's fiancee said: I came with Mathew, Nicole's brother 2 months ago but we were unsuccessful. We need everyone to help and we need more information for our search. He said the family is close and his relationship with her is strong. He said his fiancee did not leave Syria as indicated by the Turkish authorities (?). He noted Nicole's previous trips with her brother and his wife and indicated that she liked to travel and discover new things and loves history. He indicated that he was in a daily contact with her thru e-mail in which she told him abour her movements. Her mom noted that she sent her e-mail from Africa and the remote areas she travelled to to tell her: Mom I just wanted to tell you I am alive.
Nicole wanted to visit Qasr Ibn Wardan east of Hama and near Ibn Wardan village that belongs to Al-Hamra district. Her mom noted that this is as indicated in her personal notes and that the family is not holding any information but what they know is limited.
The mom repeated many times her request to Syrian people to help and indicated that Nicole's friends have designed a poster to be distributed to search for her and find her. There is also a website with pictures of Nicole and that the family is offering one million pounds to whoever finds her.

That is it.
I hope this helps. Glad to be of assistance and good luck.
Date:July 13th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)

Re: Al-Watan article

This is word for word translation.
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