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My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria - The Beginning Of My Ascendance — LiveJournal
April 22nd, 2007
10:59 am


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My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria

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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.
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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 5th, 2007 08:04 am (UTC)

Re: Suppositions about Alqebab

During all our trip, we had to left our passport to the manager of the hotel during our stay. It's a common procedure in Syria (and also in Turkey). BUT at the Riad hotel where we stayed in Hama (the "competitor" of the Cairo hotel) the manager didn't keep our passeport. I remember it because we were very surprised.

So it would worth cheaking if she had her passeport or not.

As other people told you, Syrian people are afraid of their own police. This may be an explanation of the strange attitude of the manager of the Cairo Hotel. It's hard for us to understand, but in the same time we are living in a country were human rights are respected by the autorities, and it's not the case in Syria. There are many reports of torture in their jails.

So my advice would be NOT to rely to much on the Syrian police, because they may afraid people with their questions, and obtain very few informations. Somebody who knows something may not speak for not taking the risk of being suspected.

If you can find a Syrian, a local, who can go privatly for you to the Cairo hotel, you may obtain more answers. Because the day-trip was organised by them, they certainly know who was the conductor of the minibus, what was the exact planned route, maybe even the names of the others passengers,etc. Nicole can't have disapear without anyone noticing her.

You are right to think that after Ibn Wardan, she would have come back to Hama via the beehive houses. This excursion is kind of one-way one, and in fact it's not a whole-day trip; more a half-day trip. So she way have planned to go elsewhere after this.

If she have already been to Apamea, the other place to go from Hama is the Krak des chevaliers. I remember that there was a record at the entrance; I'm sure they asked and noted our citizenship, but unfortunatly I don't remember if they asked about our name. Anyway, it may worth checking.

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Date:May 6th, 2007 02:43 am (UTC)

Re: Suppositions about Alqebab


Thank you again for your detailed description of the area - it's these sorts of in-depth comments that have helped us get as close as we have to finding Nicole.

It now appears that the manager of the Cairo Hotel did indeed contact the police and repeatedly contacted them afterwards. This hasn't been verified and may just be reactive back-tracking, but if it's true then it adds to the mystery.

I've asked someone in Hama to investigate about the passport, just to make sure it's with her (or not). Same with her camera and moneybelt.


Date:May 12th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Suppositions about Alqebab

I was so sad to here about this story..Im so upset and feelin very down right now.
Syria has been knwoing as one of the most safeset contrys ever and now we here about this thing

I hope that i can help in anyway.

my mail is

I can do anyhting I can
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