Tigre people

Not to be confused with Tigrinyas.
For other uses, see Tigre (disambiguation).
Tigre people
Total population
(1.7 million)
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly Islam 99.5%; minority Christianity .5%
Related ethnic groups
AfarAgawAmharaBejaBilenJebertiSahoSomaliTigrinya people[1]

The Tigre people are an ethnic group residing in Eritrea and Sudan. They are a nomadic and pastoralist community related to the Biher-Tigrinya of Eritrea,[2] as well as the Beja people of Sudan.[3]


The Tigre are a predominantly Muslim nomadic people who inhabit the northern, western, and coastal lowlands of Eritrea (Gash-Barka, Anseba and Northern Red Sea regions of Eritrea), as well as areas in eastern Sudan. 99.5% of the Tigre people adhere to the Islamic religion Sunni Islam, but there are a small number of Christians among them as well (often referred to as the Mensaï in Eritrea).[4]

The first Tigre converts to Islam were those who lived on islands in the Red Sea and were converted in the seventh century. Mainland Tigre were not converted to Islam until the nineteenth century.[2]

They suffered persecution from both the Imperial and the Marxist governments of Ethiopia in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, since they were both nomadic and Muslim. The Ethiopian government's efforts to settle the Tigre, combined with the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, resulted in the resettling of tens of thousands of Tigre in Sudan.


The Tigre language, like Tigrinya, is an Afro-Asiatic language of the Semitic branch, with its origins mainly in Ge'ez. There is no known historically written form of the language. The Eritrean government uses the Ge'ez writing system (a syllabary) to publish documents in the Tigre language.

Tigre is the lingua franca of the multi-ethnic lowlands of western and northern Eritrea, including the northern coast. As such approximately 65% of the Western Lowlands Eritrean population speaks Tigre, although only about 30% are native Tigre speakers.

The Tigre language is transcribed using the Ge'ez syllabary. However, due to the majority of Tigre speakers being Muslim and associating Ge'ez with the Orthodox Church, the language is also written in the Arabic alphabet.[5]

The Tigre people, language and their area of inhabitation should not be confused with the Tigray-Tigrinya people who live in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia and who speak Tigrinya, a closely related Semitic language.

The Tigre people are known as Beni Amer or Khasa or of course as one of the many tribes that speak Tigre in Sudan and Eritrea


There are also a number of Eritreans of Tigre origin living in the Middle East, North America, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Notable Tigre people


  1. Joireman, Sandra F. (1997). Institutional Change in the Horn of Africa: The Allocation of Property Rights and Implications for Development. Universal-Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 1581120001. The Horn of Africa encompasses the countries of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. These countries share similar peoples, languages, and geographical endowments.
  2. 1 2 Olson, James Stuart (1996). The peoples of Africa: an ethnohistorical dictionary. Greenwood. pp. 557–58. ISBN 978-0-313-27918-8.
  3. MacDonald, Fiona; et al. (2000). Peoples of Africa, Volume 10. Marshall Cavendish. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-7614-7158-5.
  4. Yakan, Muḥammad Zuhdī (1999). Almanac of African peoples & nations. Transaction. p. 667. ISBN 978-1-56000-433-2.
  5. Weekes, Richard V. (1978). Muslim peoples: a world ethnographic survey. Greenwood Press. p. 418. ISBN 0837198801.

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