The Beginning Of My Ascendance
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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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*)Summary
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 email@example.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.( Click Here For Additional/Older Details...Collapse )
Current Mood: worried
Current Music: Gerard McMann - "Cry Little Sister"
Tags: jacqueline nicole vienneau missing syria
|Date:||May 3rd, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)|| |
Very sorry to hear about this, I'd worked with Nicole at EMC a few years ago. Ill keep checking back to hear if anything works out
Remembered in our prayers.
|Date:||May 3rd, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC)|| |
Hi. Im sorry to hear about your sister. I got an e-mail this morning from your Uncle. I know him from the marching band he plays in. I blogged about this on Yahoo!360! this morning, the word is getting out there and I hope that someone will come forward with some information for you soon!
|Date:||May 3rd, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC)|| |
my fingers are crossed matt.. lets hope for the best!
|Date:||May 3rd, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)|| |
if you want to come to syria
Hi matt i already emailed you
I am a syrian canadian living currently in syria. If you want to come here to look for her (which I highly recommend) you don't have to worry about a place to stay in damascus, plus i'll arrange your transport within syria and help u out as much as i can.
just let me know if u need help with the ticket or anything else.
Take care good luck.
|Date:||May 3rd, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)|| |
contact Syria Times and Syria Today
Steven from Ohio here. I know that Karim has started to contact some of his people.
In terms of the press, contact Syria Times at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the government press - well one of the many - so who knows how long it will take to get going. Also, get in touch with Syria Today (a monthly) at email@example.com. The Consulting Editor, Andrew Tabler, is English, I believe...
I am trying to track down a women's issues NGO in Damascus, but will need more time.
|Date:||May 3rd, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)|| |
I contacted www.syrianews.com about this story, hoping they would put it on their site.
Also www.syriacomment.com should be contacted, just an idea.
|Date:||May 3rd, 2007 07:40 pm (UTC)|| |
Don't worry, we will find her.
I'm Syrian living in Montreal my name is Max. I have forwarded the whole story with a link to this website to a Syrian online news named Syria-News this is their website:
I also called a friend of mine in the city of Hama and explained for him the whole story in case he knows or maybe in the future hears anything about it.
I really recommend what the fellow before me had suggested and that you contact some media newspapers that speak in English.
If there are any Arabic news papers you wish me to address just let me know here on a reply.
|Date:||May 4th, 2007 03:48 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Don't worry, we will find her.
Thank you so much for forwarding the link. The Syrian media is one of our primary targets as we want to get as many people within Syria reading about the issue as they have the best chance of recognizing Nicole and letting us know where they saw her.
Right now we're fairly certain she disappeared between Hamas and Aleppo. If you or your friend have any contacts in the area around Ibn Wardan or the Dead Cities or even the "beehive houses", we'd love to hear from them. People who run tours in the area or drive microbuses also may have helpful information, especially if they did so around March 31st.
We may move to contact more newspapers in the near future, and if we do so, I'll definitely let you know.
Fingers crossed man. I hope she turns up. I'm sure she will be just fine.
|Date:||May 4th, 2007 07:16 am (UTC)|| |
Suppositions about Alqebab
One of the arabic vowel, the "-" is like the "a" in english but is sometimes nearer to the "e". Also there is a consonant that is sound coming from the throat that may sound like A, AH or AL
In the area of Ibn Wardan, the nearest place that could sound like this is "Aqeirbat" or "Aqibat" (the same place, but you'll find it named differently depending if you're looking on a syrian map or an english guide-book map). This city is marqued on the Syrian touristic map (the best one, I used it to travel in Syria buy car and it was more precise than the ones on the LP) as the distric center.
But it's not really on the road. Usually the beehives houses the tourists can visit are in the village of Srouj (or Sarouj or As'Srouj) and Twalid'Dabaghien. These villages on the road between Hama and Ibn Wardan. The castle is 40 minutes drive from Hama, and from there the only way to go further is to come back on the same road or continue through Kherbet al andarin, Senjar, to reach the Hama-Aleppo highway.
If she was intending to continue to Turkey, it's a bit strange to think that she would have planned to go to the Dead cities and then come back to Hama. At the Riad hotel in Hama (the direct "competitor" of the Cairo, offering same services to backpakers), I saw some excursions on the list that was offering to get you to the Dead cities than leave you in Aleppo (kind of one-way excursion). It's because it's very near of Aleppo.
So, may she have taken a one-may excursion without knowing it? But she wouldn't have gone on a day trip without money, so she would have been able to come back to Hama.
Did the manager of the Cairo Hotel communicate at some point with the syrian autorities? If not, it seems to me very unprofessional and it would be important for other solo travellers to know it. They may prefer to go at a place where they'll be sure somebody will be looking for them if they don't come back as planned at the end of a day-trip.
Did Nicole leaved her passeport at the hotel? If yes, do you know what other identification papers (credit or bank card) she may had with her? This could help you to track her.
I really hope you will find her soon.
|Date:||May 4th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: Suppositions about Alqebab
We think we've translated the word to "the Domes", meaning essentially the beehive houses themselves. It's the best match we've come up with.
Your point on it not making sense that she would see the Dead Cities and come back to Hama makes sense to me - Nicole was all about efficient travelling and not back-tracking. The problem is trying to communicat with the Cairo Hotel - talking over the phone in English likely led to mistakes, and otherwise I've been hearing second-hand reports from others (who often also spoke English).
I'm starting to suspect she may have gone to Ibn Wardan, and then returned via the beehive houses (so she could take her time). We had a report that she made it to Ibn Wardan and then disappeared between there and the houses, but it's unconfirmed. I also saw on the map that you can't go anywhere after the castle.
It's VERY strange that the Cairo Hotel manager didn't mention it to the authorities. I'm not entirely sure what is up with that - perhaps he did and they didn't mention it to the Canadian Embassy? That also seems wrong. I'm not sure what to make of it and can only hope that the Syrian police have asked similar questions.
Nicole would never leave her passport anywhere unless forced to (on a cruise ship, for example). Unless it's a standard requirement in Syrian hotels (and I found that doubtful, especially at budget hotels), she would have her passport on her. We have copies of all her ID as well.
|Date:||May 4th, 2007 10:37 am (UTC)|| |
Hope you are find her alive and well- I have just recently arrived in Lebanon to work from Australia, and this is the sort of thing I worry about.
All the very best,
|Date:||May 4th, 2007 11:36 am (UTC)|| |
I saw at lest one of these websites on here, but I re-posted the three a Syrian gentleman gave me, just in case.
www.syria-news.com this web site is a news web site where most Syrian read their news from.
www.al-sham.net it’s a web site were a considerable number of Syrians go to for fun, to spend their free time there.
www.aljazeera.net if you want to deliver a stronger message that reaches wider audience.
He was very nice and said he would try to help anyway he could.
|Date:||May 4th, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC)|| |
Just to let you know that many people in Syria really are wonderful. I have a letter from a random Syrian trying as hard as he can to help!
Syria, especially Hama and Homs area, is desperately hard to communicate in. There is a very good chance she may simply be stumbling around an area that doesn't have any real form of communication. She's a tough chick and a month of floundering in Syria trying to find communication is a challenge I think she is up to. - Or so I have heard from Kate. I haven't had a chance to personally meet her yet.
Anyway - the letter:
Type this group name in the group search field; lots of members are in it mostly all Syrian’s (All Syrians On Facebook)
I will make sure I get some one to write a note for every one in the web sites I visit regularly, which has lots of members to have a greater chance finding her ASAP.
|Date:||May 11th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)|| |
She will come back soon
I'm Syrian and I feel so sorry for you
I recall one known incident, than once a French girl has lived with "Al-bado" the wandering nomads near Palmyra, she got married and had children there..
I'm telling this story just to enforce the hope that she will come back and everything will be fine...I hope
Our Hearts with you
|Date:||May 4th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)|| |
Matt, I really hope for the best. I lived a couple of years in Syria. I have been all over the world and although I do not support the regime itself, the Syrian people are the most warm, truly friendly and helpful people I have come across. They will help you irrespective of rang, standing or religion.
Syria for foreigners is a very very safe country. Although the Mukabarat is feared they will actually watch that nothing will happen to the foreigners. Please follow some Syrian contacts and try to get in contact with them. Go to a Hammam and talk to the locals. There will be people speaking English or French. They will help and news spreads very quickly in Syria.
I really hope for the best