Stephen McGown at the Links

Fri Jun 3, 15:00 - Fri Jun 3, 16:30
St Francis Links Clubhouse


Experience this life changing personal account of the 6 years Stephen spent as al Qaeda hostage, when all he wanted was a motorbike adventure back to South Africa. His personal account will change your life for the better ... this is an event not to be missed. His book will be on sale as well.

Limited seating available | First come first served | Drinks and Food for sale

While riding his motorbike through Mali, on his way home from London to Johannesburg, Steve McGown was taken captive in Timbuktu by Al Qaeda. Life as he knew it, changed in that instant. With nothing to bargain with and everything to lose, for the next six years Steve became reluctantly engaged in what he refers to as, “the greatest chess game of my life.”

Excerpts from the article in the Daily Maverick (By Mahmood Sanglay on 28 Jan 21):

This is a tale of survival in captivity. Any traveler captured by militant extremists in a foreign land may face a sudden, merciless death. And such a death was the fate of Martin, the German companion of the three surviving captives held by Al Qaeda in Timbuktu, Mali from 2011 to 2017.

Stephen McGown is South African and his narrative details his own ordeal, and that of Sjaak Rijke — a Dutch national, and Johan Gustafsson — a Swede.

McGown’s triumph is multifaceted. Physically, he survived execution by Al Qaeda, even though his British passport rendered him a prized catch for a symbolic killing by the extremist group. He survived harsh desert conditions, treachery by a fellow captive and constant trekking with his captors over the desert landscape to elude their enemies.

Among the most astonishing episodes of McGown’s tale are his meticulous records and notes of his travels, revealing a remarkable presence of mind and powers of observation amid a life-changing crisis. Then there is his acquisition of diverse survival skills in the desert, skills that not only preserve life, but which helped build his character.

And of course, there is McGown’s love of and extraordinary relationship with animals. He was deeply affected by Al Qaeda’s slaughter of goats and camels, the lone presence of a giant tortoise in the middle of nowhere, tales of snakes, geckos and frogs and the migration of swallows.

However, his survival ultimately speaks to his mental and spiritual growth. This enabled him to achieve a typical personal life goal, namely to emerge from his ordeal a better person. This, above all else, is the abiding moral of McGown’s story.

In the early period of captivity, McGown was confronted with the very real fear of death at the hands of his captors. And then there was anxiety, panic, depression, loneliness, boredom and a host of conditions that tested his mettle beyond mere physical resilience. The chapter “Oasis of the Mind” offers deeply profound reflections, and some context and valuable insight into his “self-imposed rehab” in the desert.

McGown’s struggle includes expanding his vast capacity for forgiveness. What do you get when you impose a six-year, life-altering ordeal on a nice, easy-going guy from Jozi raised on a farm? Invariably, the typical outcome will not be pretty.

His exceptional conquest is renouncing implacable enmity and embracing the most exemplary in human nature. This is the Saharan Oasis he brought home.

Additional information

Age restriction No under 13s
Refund policy No refunds


Stephen McGown at the Links
St Francis Links Clubhouse
1 Jack Nicklaus Dr, St Francis Links, St Francis Bay, 6312
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