The wa'ab was a cryptohominid reported mainly from Sudan and South Sudan, including the arid Red Sea Hills. In folklore, it was famously reputed to have no joints in its legs, which were described as stiff, and was believed to be capable of speaking any human language.
The wa'ab was described by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Gobel, of the Beni-Amer people, in a conversation published in Sudan Notes and Records in 1927. He claimed that it was once found in the Sudan and in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), but that it had not been seen for the past thirty or forty years, having "gone with the elephant and the buffalo and the teitel." According to Sheikh Mohammed, when the wa'ab was more common, it was trapped and eaten by people, and he himself claimed to have seen one which had been killed many years ago. The anonymous author who sent the piece to Sudan Notes and Records offered the sheikh, who claimed to know "men who know the present whereabouts of the wa'ab," £25 for a live wa'ab and £10 for a dead one.
Colonial administrator Edward John Nelson Wallis later heard about the wa'ab and the reward from Sheikh Mohammed, and, despite his earlier claim of a sighting, Wallis got the impression that the sheikh did not believe in it. In 1950, the wa'ab made media headlines, it being reported by Wallis, then Governor of Khartoum, that nobody had yet claimed a prize of $287 or £100 in Egyptian currency, offered some time previously. According to Wallis, the Hadendoa people of the Red Sea coast still believed in the waab at this time.
The wa'ab was said to closely resemble a human being, but was slightly shorter, with narrow humped shoulders and longer legs, but much shorter arms, and a coat of soft hair all over its body and limbs, but not on its face. The wa'abs found in Abyssinia were alleged to have longer arms. It also had human-like features, except for a shorter nose and much higher nostrils. Its big toe was said to be "very much longer" than the other four. According to popular belief, it could not bend its knees, forcing it to sleep standing up, leaning against a rock. It was also believed to be capable of human speech, having the supernatural power to speak the language of the land it was currently in.
Sheikh Mohammed claimed that he had once seen a dead wa'ab, "while the Khalifa was still in Omdurman; though here the Mahdia had been over for four years". The Mahdiyya, the period in which the Sudan was controlled by the Mahdist State, ended with the Khalifa Abdullahi's (~1846 – 25 November 1899) death, but the Mahdi (~1844 – 22 June 1885) himself had died in 1885. Sheikh Mohammed was travelling from Afrik to Upper Khor Baraka with Mohammed Osheik, when he passed a village in Karai, where the famines which occured during the Khalifa's reign, particularly in 1889, had forced villagers to live off the land.
Bernard Heuvelmans classified the wa'ab with "large hominoids of ... ambiguous identity," including the woadd-el-uma of Sudan and the mulahu and kikomba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Heuvelmans argued that these cryptohominids could be undescribed species of great apes, Homo erectus (~2–0.1 MYA), or robust australopithecines, species of Paranthropus (~2.6–0.6 MYA).
Notes and references
- Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- Gobal, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah "The Wa'ab," Sudan Notes and Records, Vol. 10 (1927) – Online
- Wallis, E. J. N. "Interlude," Blackwood's Magazine, Vol. 238 (1934)
- "Jointless Waab, of African Sudan: One of World's Fabulous Creatures," The National Geographic News Bulletin (25 April 1950)
- "Reward for a Waab," Western Folklore, No. 9 (1950)