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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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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 1st, 2007 04:04 am (UTC)

hope for the best, but-

I have backpacked all over the world, in places with dangerous environments (natural and political) , but I am adventurous and not crazy. Syria, in the best of times ( and right now they are anything but) is one of the least welcoming to tourist, espescially western women. I hope she is fine and returns home. However, you cannot be too surprise if that is not the outcome when one places themselves in such positions. Yes, I am a Jerk. Yes, shoot the messenger. But it does not detract from the truth of the message.
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2007 04:12 am (UTC)

Re: hope for the best, but-


Allow me to quote The Lonely Planet, arguably one of the most trusted travel guidebooks in the world:

"Syria is an extraordinarily safe county in which to travel, and foreign women are generally treated with courtesy and respect."

To provide perspective, their commentary on being a solo traveller in Iraq:

"You'd have to be mad."

Syria is not as dangerous as you think, especially for Canadians.
Date:May 1st, 2007 04:55 am (UTC)

Maybe the local Syrian community can help

Assuming you're in Toronto, or another sizeable city, there will be a community of Syrian people living there. There's probably a community center, school, or mosque which is the center of the community, or it'll be a family with lots of connections.

Google and the phone book should get you the basic pointers, then you can go in person to talk to people. It'll take some asking around to find the right people, but they might talk to relatives back in Syria who could help you with information such as checking with newspapers (talking to the people who work there, not just reading them), hospitals, or checking in with the police. It might be more effort and less efficient than the consulate, but it could help.
Date:May 1st, 2007 05:38 am (UTC)

Re: Maybe the local Syrian community can help

I'm so sorry you're going through this. Maybe you should get on a plane and get over there, you and someone else who is a great navigator. That's what I would do if my brother went missing. Because whether there is email or not, surely there is a damn phone over there somewhere... Phones are a little more prominent that email. If she is as smart as you say she is, a smart person would say, "hey, I haven't written in a few days and they're probably worried about me, I'd better find a phone since there is no internet around here and all..."

Get on a plane and go over there now. She may need you. She may have amnesia and be a Jane Doe in some third world hospital. Good luck and God Bless !
Date:May 1st, 2007 05:40 am (UTC)
The best of luck to you. I sincerely hope you find her!!!!
Date:May 1st, 2007 06:17 am (UTC)

no more Public internet access in Syria

Hey, I hope you hear from her soon, I am from Syria, but based in Dubai, I have learned that currently there is no more Public internet access in Syria, it is a recent clamp down on VoIP, as the bastards in the ISP monopoly are protecting their dough.Long distance phone calls are extremely expensive. I emailed you those contacts there, so hopefully you will get some help from them.
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[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2007 07:07 am (UTC)
A digg user, sending his regards. I wish you the best of luck in finding your sister!
Date:May 1st, 2007 07:09 am (UTC)

Your sister

How worrying and I have really no suggestions except to say that when we were in Syria we had a very difficult time getting emails either sent at all or for them to arrive at their destination. So, it may be that your sister is experiencing the same problem we did. Access to the internet is not that easy and often the "send" is blocked. If your sister is in the habit of venturing off the tourist trail, then I think it is highly likely that she is in an area where there is no internet access at all. Syria is a fascinating country and it's easy to get involved in the moment and then find yourself completely off the beaten path.
Canada has an embassy in Damascus and I would have thought thsat they could do something to help you.
Date:May 1st, 2007 07:16 am (UTC)


Give me your email address and I will have family give me a check on whether there's been an accident or any reports of a missing Canadian. There is a Canadian embassy in Damascus, and they are usually quite responsive.

fred at wittyname dot com

Date:May 1st, 2007 07:32 am (UTC)
For what it's worth, I'll be praying everything turns out in your favor.
Date:May 1st, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)

You fail

Prayer is useless, there is no god... get off your ass and go fly to syria, you have better chance of success then. as for me, when she is found, can you post a list of the loot she drops?
Date:May 1st, 2007 07:50 am (UTC)

keep digging to find that ladie

the news of the Syrian internet being gobbled up by the greed of big business is surly sad news for the Syrian public, but does shed some light on the communication gab and also gives some hope. Can anyone confirm any other censorship of communication around that region?

Prayers are with you all
Date:May 1st, 2007 08:09 am (UTC)


1. Who is paying for all the long trips?

2. Didn't she know what could happen in Middle East country? She probably had her arms uncovered.
Date:May 1st, 2007 08:31 am (UTC)

Re: Questions

Obviously you have never been to Syria and secondly fuck you bitch twice, one for being insensitive these people, and second being insensitive to Syrians. You must be American terrorist, because of you people whole world is in turmoil.
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Date:May 1st, 2007 08:53 am (UTC)

Praying for Nicole to come back home safely

My thoughts and prayers are with you and for Nicole to come back to Canada safely
Date:May 2nd, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Praying for Nicole to come back home safely

I am for Damascus, I speak Arabic... Let me know what I can do for you.

Hope that everything is OK and it is just a case of miscommunication.
Date:May 1st, 2007 09:21 am (UTC)
I can't see your email anywhere. please contact me from this link: http://erinch.com/contact
I know people who lives in Turkey on Syrian border, they can contact the officials to get some info.
Date:May 1st, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)

Post to Lonelyplanet and other major backpacker sites

Hi there,

I can only suggest that you get this message out to the loneylplanet style websites, she's bound to have had daily contact with fellow backpackers, someone out there will know of her last wherabouts. Also try the backpacker travel agencies, they constantly run tours through those areas and probably have bumped into her along the way.

Posting on other social networking sites is a great idea as well, again these places are popular with us backpackers

Hope you find her!

Karianna (from Digg)
Date:May 1st, 2007 10:04 am (UTC)
I've posted ur story to the editors of sytia's leading webportal, syria-news.com they have a good investigation team but the local news r in arabic.
The only accident with unidentified bodies took place on the 24 April, a coach near the Iraqi border.
Anyway I suggest submitting ur story to syrian soacial sites and forums.

I'm syrian staying abroad, feel free to contact me: ta82sy@yahoo.com

Date:May 1st, 2007 10:10 am (UTC)

I am in Jordan, will help you

Hey my name is Wisam, I am an american traveling the middle east with a friend. I am of Iraqi dissent and could greatly help you with your problem.. I am planning to goto Syria in the next few days.. Please be in touch with me and we could coordinate something? my E-Mail is wisammy@gmail.com please be in touch ASAP..
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2007 10:34 am (UTC)
I'll see if I can pass this along to the folks i know who are traveling in that area.
Date:May 1st, 2007 11:09 am (UTC)

We're In Syria

Hi, we are in Damascus at the moment & can ask around at a few hotels here. We plan to leave the country tomorrow so I'm sorry we can't spread the word much further.

It's a shame that people have taken to adding politically charged posts on such a sensitive site. All I will say is that this is one of the friendliest most hospitable places I have ever been.

If you have contacted the Canadian Consulate here I would expect that they would make it their own urgent priority to contact hotels etc here - most backpackers in Syria follow a fairly standard route & invariably end up at the same hotels, all of which have to keep personal details of their guests. We have found when we call some hotels (to book) their English isn't so good, but the consulate should have Arabic speakers who could call all of the main budget hotels quite easily.

Good Luck
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