Amy Robson split from her husband three years ago, but she’s trapped as his wife
Originally published: 12 April 2013
Amy robson made headlines five years ago, when she ran away to Egypt aged 17 and got engaged to a stranger almost twice her age. Her disappearance sparked an international search, but she married Mohammed El Sayed, known as Noby, regardless and moved in with his family.
But within months he said he wanted a second wife and Amy flew home to her parents. It’s now three years since they split, but she’s been unable to move on, because he refuses to sign divorce papers.
'I was an idiot, I didn't know what love was- I'd never had a boyfriend before'
“I was an idiot, I didn’t know what love was – I’d never had a boyfriend before,” she admits. “I realised I’d made a mistake and thought when I left Egypt that would be it – but I’m trapped. I don’t know why he won’t divorce me, maybe he hopes I’ll go back.”
Amy, now 22, from Carlisle, was a shy 17 year old when she met Noby in Hurghada, Egypt, in April 2007. She’d been left at home to revise for her A-levels while her parents were away, but she secretly flew to the resort to rekindle a holiday romance with a local she’d met the year before.
In a bizarre twist, he rejected her, but she went on to fall for 31-year-old Noby, who she met in an internet café. Unbelievably, he proposed the day after they met and she accepted – despite them barely knowing each other or speaking a word of each other’s languages.
“We used a translating website,” says Amy, who lost her virginity to Noby three days later. “He made me feel wanted.”
Thankfully, Amy’s parents James, 43, and Janet, 38, found her after a week and brought her home but, six months later, once she’d turned 18, she rejoined Noby, moved in with his family and married him.
'I'd send emails to friends in England, then spend hours staring at the screen waiting for a response'
“I didn’t tell my family – at the ceremony we were surrounded by all Noby’s family and friends,” Amy recalls.
But cultural differences soon arose. Amy, who learnt basic Arabic, says: “I was lonely – Noby wouldn’t let me out alone and said I couldn’t work. I’d send emails to friends in England, then spend hours staring at the screen waiting for a response.”
Astonishingly, within months, Noby said he wanted another wife – it’s normal for men to have up to four wives under Egyptian law. Amy says: “I was shocked and worried he didn’t love me.”
After 16 months, Amy realised she had made a mistake and, in April 2009, she flew home.
“I’d become depressed – I had no one to talk to,” she says. “I told Noby it was a visit, but then rang and said I wasn’t coming back. He begged me to return, but I changed my number and burned photos of him. I just wanted to forget it all. I completely regretted it.”
But three years on, Amy, who is studying travel and tourism and lives with a friend, still can’t move on because Noby refuses to give her a divorce.
“My lawyer posts the papers and rings him, but he doesn’t respond,” says Amy, who’ll have to wait two years before she can divorce Noby without his permission.
She adds: “I don’t know why – maybe it’s out of spite or he just wants to keep hold of me. He could have remarried for all I know. I hate to think of being his wife – I’m not that girl any more. But I don’t want to contact him. I don’t want to speak to him.”
Adding she’s only had one boyfriend since she returned home, single Amy, who’s still on good terms with her parents, adds: “I’m still paying for my mistake, but I’ll throw a party when I can divorce him.”
By Emily Retter