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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(*The blog is no longer being updated regularly due to the civil war in Syria.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 9th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
there are small restaurants or cafes all along maret al -numan and homs,most of mini busses and major busses stop there on there way going to other cities...post her picture with arabic translation...and try to get a local phone number so,if someone ever seen her will give a call...,most ppl can't afford long dfistance call and never heard of internet in that rural areas....and perhaps affraid to talk to police as well...I would advice you to get down to syria and follow up from there...
you can buy cellphones with prepaid cards under $100 in Syria.

ICARDA has a branch in syria (www.icarda.org) ,european and northamericans live and work there with syrian ppl speaking good english,you might get a volunteer or two to help you with the translation and communication.
get in touch with there school (icarda school) ,young and helpfull ppl.

it is hard for me to belive she just disapeared without anyone seeing her...you must understand,syria is very small country,with ppl everywhere watching each other and gossip....my guess is someone knows of her,but scared to talk..

good luck,hope she returns home safe.

[User Picture]
Date:May 9th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)

Getting a local number is a good idea - we'll have to figure out a way to do that when we arrive.

We've reached a contact via ICARDA that has been very helpful - another good idea.

We also suspect that someone knows but may not be willing to tell us. That's the main reason I'm planning on going to Syria - maybe they'll find a way to tell me in person if they can't or won't tell me over the Internet.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
Date:May 9th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)

Good luck from a fellow Canadian

Hi Matt,
I've been following the blog for a few days now. I think what you're doing is really amazing and your sister will be really proud of all that you've done when she comes home! Having done a lot of travelling myself, I just hope that my brother (coincedentally also named Matt) or rest of my family would search as hard as you are. I hope everything works out good for you.
Date:May 10th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC)

Private detectives

Matt, you will be surprised to know there are private detectives in some of these places. I know Egypt has them, not sure about Syria. The Syrian secret police most likely knows where most of the syrian brothels are as not much gets past them. Likewise, there should be others who would know this kind of information.

I just don't know how to get into the smugglers circles. No clue, but something to consider.
Date:May 10th, 2007 09:37 am (UTC)

Private detectives

Matt, you will be surprised to know there are private detectives in some of these places. I know Egypt has them, not sure about Syria. The Syrian secret police most likely knows where most of the syrian brothels are as not much gets past them. Likewise, there should be others who would know this kind of information.

I just don't know how to get into the smugglers circles. No clue, but something to consider.
Date:May 10th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
Matt...my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May your search have a positive conclusion and may your sister be found safe and sound.

Bruno Amaro
City of Toronto
Date:May 10th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)

good luck

sorry u don't know me, iam a syrian citizen 22 years old,iam really sorry for ure sister and i wish that u meet her soon,and plz i would like to offer my help if needed, i visited canada 3 times and can't forget the beauty of vancouver..alberta...banff and of course the canadian people.
plz this is my mail
good luck in finding her soon.
Date:May 10th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)

Try to let national TV broadcast the story

May god be with you. I hope that you will find your sister safe as soon as possible.
Try to contact National TV and let them broadcast this story after main news. Send a letter to Syria News; They have connections to Syrian Television and might be able to help you. Most of people in HammaH area don't have internet connection. TV is better, as everybody watches it.
Date:May 10th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)

Syrian in Syria

One of the best Syrian news websites on the internet had published your sister's disappearance story. That is a very huge step forward on spreading the story in the Syrian media. The website is called Syria News.

Here is a link straight to the story:


Good luck
Date:May 10th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)

We are sorry about ur sister

I'm Syrian and live in Homs city it is near Hama where ur sister has lost.
i wrote in my blog about ur sister hope we can do any thing to help u and ur family to know any news about ur sister.

this is the link of the post http://www.mohammad-online.com/mohammad/?p=60

We are all in syria sorry about ur sister and we hope that she will be fine..

Best Regards
Date:May 10th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)



Date:May 10th, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)

from syria

Hello Matthew..sorry to hear that about your sister..hope she is ok .
i hope i can help... i'm not in hama but i'll try to sent this page to all syrian sites that i know..
Date:May 10th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC)

Check that....hope not anyway....

Hi Mathew...I hope you will find her safe....I Just knew about her story from Syria-News... I don't want to scare you but I want you to check this as well; there is another subject in the same web stating that there was a woman body found near Hums and she is in her 30's probably hit by a car around april 4th and they still don't know her identity and also they said also in Hums they has been a body for another woman in her 30's and nobody knew her identity for one and half month now...!!! ....check out these information and hope it has nothing to do with you sister......good luck. Firas
Date:May 10th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Check that....hope not anyway....


The body was retrieved on May 4th according to the website:

Date:May 10th, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC)

A body of a 30-something woman was found in Homs


According to the attached website, she was wearing a greenish track suit and appeared to have been in a car accident. She remains unidentified. This is a story from yesterday. Homs is close to Hama.

Good luck in your search for your sister. I hope things work out for the best.
Date:May 10th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)

Re: A body of a 30-something woman was found in Homs

As I mentioned in my previous note, there are 2 women bodies found in Hums.....Firas.
Date:May 11th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)

Any Help I am Ready

Hello mike ,
firt of all please be informed that i am praying for your sister since ih ave heard about her dieapearance ,i am syrian living in damascus , i have a lot of contacts in syria , please don;t hesitate to contact me if you need any help in syria my e-mail is mohhmach@yahoo.com
i am ready to provide you with any logistics and contacts you require .
Date:May 11th, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)


To all Syrians in Syria
Stop offering personal help and contact information. Matt was clear at the begenning: IF YOU HAVE INFO, PLEASE CONTACT ME.
So please Syrians in syria stop offering him your emails and do something more useful. If you really want to help, do as two Syrians did: go to Hama area and check things out.
I know many Syrians now are contacting you offering help. I doubt they will go to Hama area and do something useful. All they want is to help them out coming to Canada, so don't reply to them. Just reply to the real helpful people.

God bless your sister

Syrian in the U.S.A.
Date:May 11th, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)


To (Syrian in the U.S.A)
Please refrain from generalizing and doubting people's good intentions and prayers. Syrians are known to be very helpful and accommodating, and you suggesting that their interest in this tragedy is solely for a "visa" is not only offensive, insensitive, and totally misconstrued, but also stupid.

Matt, my prayers go out to you and to your sister. She will turn out fine.

Another Syrian in the USA
Re: STOP STOP STOP! - (Anonymous) - Expand
Re: STOP STOP STOP! - (Anonymous) - Expand
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