Tigre people

Tigre people
Total population
1.5 million
Regions with significant populations



Allah-green.svg Islam Christianity

Related ethnic groups

Afar • Agaw • AmharaBejaBilenJebertiSahoTigray

The Tigre are an ethnic group residing in Eritrea and Sudan. They are a nomadic and pastoralist people, related to the Tigray-Tigrinya people of Eritrea and Ethiopia[1] and to the Beja people of Sudan.[2]



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. 85% of the Tigre people adhere to the Islamic religion Sunni Islam, but there are a considerable amount of Christians among them as well (often referred to as the Mensaï in Eritrea).[3]

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.[1]

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 the Tigrinya language, 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 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 moslem and associating Ge'ez with the Orthodox Church, the language is also written in the Arabic alphabet. The Ge'ez syllabary is also not ideal to transcribe Tigre as it does not portray vowel length, which is an important factor in the Tigre language.

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.


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

  • Hamid Idris Awate
  • Ibrahim Sultan
  • Abdalla Idris
  • Idris Mohamed Adem
  • Hamid Faraj
  • Ali Radai
  • Ramadan Mohamed Nur
  • Ibrahim Afa


  1. ^ a b Olson, James Stuart (1996). The peoples of Africa: an ethnohistorical dictionary. Greenwood. pp. 557–58. ISBN 9780313279188. http://books.google.com/books?id=MdaAdBC-_S4C&pg=PA557. 
  2. ^ MacDonald, Fiona; et al (2000). Peoples of Africa, Volume 10. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 500. ISBN 9780761471585. http://books.google.com/books?id=_huVaR4HOUAC&pg=PA500. 
  3. ^ Yakan, Muḥammad Zuhdī (1999). Almanac of African peoples & nations. Transaction. pp. 667. ISBN 9781560004332. http://books.google.com/books?id=B4VgTJaVqCwC&pg=PA667. 

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