Thursday, July 25, 2013

TIGRE PEOPLE: THE SECOND LARGEST FORGOTTEN TRIBE OF ERITREA

The Tigre are an nomadic-pastoralist ethnic group residing in Eritrea and Sudan. They are related to the Biher-Tigrinya of Eritrea and to the Beja people of Sudan. They are mostly Muslims and they are distinguished from other regional peoples by the fact that they possess hereditary slaves. Historically, most of the Tigre have been scattered between Eritrea's northern highlands and western lowlands. They have somewhat shifted into Sudan in search of water and grazing lands.
Most are herders and seasonal farmers, cultivating maize, sorghum, millet and other cereals during the rainy season before moving to grazing areas with their herds. Camels and donkeys are mainly used as means of transportation. The Tigre ethnic group have a rich oral literature of fairy tales, fables, riddles, poetry and stories of different events. They are also known for their singing and dancing, which is usually accompanied by a drum and a mesenko, a stringed instrument, plucked like a guitar.


Language
Tigre (also known as Xasa in Sudan; Arabic) is a Semitic language that closely speaks the Ge'ez in its purest form and it is also closely related to Tigrinya. It is spoken by approximately one million people in Eritrea, with a few speakers in Sudan. Tigre is also the name for the people. The Tigre language, speakers and area should not be confused with the Tigrinya people who also live in Eritrea and who speak Tigrinya, nor with the Ethiopian Tigray Region.
Tigre woman at a market

Since the 19th century, Tigre has been written using the Ge'ez alphabet. This mode of writing was introduced by Swedish missionaries for biblical translation. However, as Ge'ez is the language of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, many Tigre Muslims use the Arabic alphabet.

The Tigre, descendants of the ancient Egyptians, are generally tall and have narrow noses and brown skin. Most of the Tigre converted to Islam during the 1800's, influenced by Muslim Arab missionaries.
 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 considerable amount of Christians among them as well (often referred to as the Mensaï in Eritrea).
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.
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.

Tigre hairstyle
The most common hairstyles found among Tigre women are called fegiret and qedamit. These hairstyles consists of small micro-braids that run sideways and straight back to the nape of the neck. Fegiret also features seven strands of braids grouped together into two separate areas that cover the forehead slightly.
Tigre woman

Visit this website for every information about the Tigre people:http://modaina.com/keren.html


 HISTORY AND LANGUAGE OF THE TIGRE-SPEAKING PEOPLES
As with other regions in the Horn of Africa, nation-based traditions of historiography and epistemologies in this area have usually perceived the space inhabited by Tigre-speaking societies as somewhat on the margins, on the very periphery of the dominant historical polities in the broader area, and perhaps especially so vis-à-vis the highland ‘Abyssinian’ polity in its various historic configurations. While stimulating studies on areas and communities of western and southern Ethiopia have been carried out and published in the 1980s and since, little has been done in that respect in the northern parts of the Horn, including the Tigre area.
Since at least the nineteenth century, modern nationalism and the idea of the nation-state have usually led us to think of frontiers as linear boundaries marking “natural” geographical, political and cultural dividing
lines between peoples. Some historians, like Lucien Febvre, one of the founders of the Annales School, have dissented from such understandings and recognized frontier zones as culturally complex, dynamic and fluid
spaces. From its inception in the context of American history, the concept of “frontier” has also been subject to various definitions, interpretations and reinterpretations.

 It is neither my intention nor my ambition to propose here a new definition of a potentially slippery concept open to such a broad gamut of interpretations and applications, and hence ambiguous as an analytical category. However, my fundamental understanding of the concept – and I would prefer to use “frontier space” or “frontier zone” – is of an area lying between several larger contending forces, or an area where the control of space is contested. The frontier space, which in its very basic usage may refer to a borderland region, usually develops into a vaguely defined yet culturally complex and dynamic zone of fluid political, economic, social and cultural interaction and exchange both among the inhabitants of that area and between them and the greater powers controlling adjacent areas. To complicate things even further, we can also think that a large territorial expanse may comprise several overlapping frontier spaces each forming territorial systems or units characterized by varying degrees of cohesiveness or coherence.

I would suggest that it may well be useful to think about the Tigre area as forming part of a broader frontier space or a meeting place of peoples in which geographic, economic, political and cultural borders were usually not clearly defined. This area, which comprises regions of the eastern Sudan as well as large stretches of modern Eritrea (in some sense all of it, including areas where Tigrinya is spoken), can be imagined – in its broadest sense - as an extensive and very approximate triangle, at its widest extending between Zula (south of Massawa), Tokar (south of Sawakin) and the areas of the modern western border between Eritrea and Sudan and inhabited mostly by what we can simplify as Beja and Tigre people. Between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries, this area was a contested space and an arena of struggle especially between two northeast African polities with expansion-oriented cultures: the historic highland Abyssinian state and the Sudanese Funj Kingdom of Sinnar.

 A third force, the Ottoman Empire, could be added, yet its presence on the Red Sea coastlands and its direct influence in the interior of this region was relatively minimal. It is revealing to observe that some of the Tigre communities and societies inhabiting this space have migrated and settled there either as a result of internal conflict within these same polities or resulting from the dynamics of contestation between the two in various periods, among other factors (economic, ecological, religious forces and pressures). For example, the Bet Asgäde had migrated to the Sahel region from Akkälä Guzay, perhaps in the sixteenth century, as Ethiopia was then ravaged during the so-called religious wars. At about the same period (or earlier) it also seems that the Bäläw, a ruling elite formed as a result of the fusion of Beja and Arabs in the Sawakin area, had begun migrating south, eventually settling in the Eritrean lowlands and attaining positions of power there. The formation of the Beni ‘Amer also seems to be rooted in its checkered relationship with the dominating, then declining, Funj kingdom. Although not a ‘Tigre’ group, but inhabiting the Tigre-area, the Bilin also trace their settlement in the area to migrations from Lasta in the northern Ethiopian highlands around the ninth or tenth century. It would not be far-fetched to argue that the very formation of some such groups (their ethnogenesis, in some cases) is intimately related to their migration and settlement in the frontier zone. Inhabiting a space that was often subject to contestation between larger polities, Tigre societies vacillated between varying degrees of independence, autonomy and political dependence that were usually reflected in particular tribute relations, the granting of grazing rights and the control of structures of authority, especially the appointment of chiefs.

Expanding Interregional Connections
The enlargement of scale was chiefly characterized by the expansion and amplification of interregional interactions and connections between the Tigre area with the Nilotic Sudan and Egypt, as well as with the Red Sea area (including the Arabian Peninsula) and the western Indian Ocean at large. It involved the integration of the Tigre space within the broader area of northeast Africa and the Red Sea. Three sweeping historical processes epitomized it: the ramifications of the so-called ‘Islamic revival’ on the Tigre space, the Red Sea commercial boom and the gradual integration of the area into global economic structures, and the increasing intervention and encroachment of outside powers over regions inhabited by Tigrespeaking communities (or a renewed wave of imperialism). All three processes involved the intensified circulation of ‘things’, people and ideas, and integrated the Tigre space more closely into global historical trends during this period.
The so-called ‘Islamic revival’ of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries originated in the Hijaz and manifested itself in the missionary activities of a broad gamut of reformers and renewers (revivalists) who sought to spread Islam among non-Muslims on the fringes of the Islamic world on the one hand, and, on the other, to deepen Islamic practices and piety among those Muslim societies whom they perceived as morally and religiously adrift. In northeast Africa and the Eritrean region in particular, the ‘revival’ was marked by the emergence of several new Sufi orders, most of which drew their inspiration from the teachings of the Moroccan mystic and Hadith scholar Ahmad ibn Idris (1749/50-1837). The most important example in our context is the Khatmiyya tariqa. Some evidence suggests that Muhammad ‘Uthman al-Mirghani (1793-
1852), the Hijazi founder of the order, had conducted several missionary tours in the northern and eastern Sudan as well as Eritrea in the 1810s and 1820s.
Tigre woman - Festival Eritrea 2006 - Asmara Eritrea.


 He toured the western parts of modern Eritrea, where he was successful in initiating followers from among the Halanqa, Sabdärat, Algheden, Beni ‘Amer, Barya and Marya groups. He also conducted missionary
tours in Sahel and Sämhar where he appointed khalifas and khalifat alkhulafa’, and was thus able to incorporate them into a broad-based cross-regional organization covering a sweeping area in northeast Africa (especially the Sudan, but also Egypt) with important cross-Red Sea connections in the Arabian Peninsula (Hijaz and Yemen). Such initiatory tours were pivotal in spurring a spectacular wave of religious change in which other religious formations and movements, holy families and holy men in the area had participated. All in all it induced the adoption of Islam by most Tigre-speaking communities in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Islamic propagation activities generated amplified connections across the area, galvanized the circulation of learned men, and connected and integrated Muslim communities in the area with the wider Islamic world (through pilgrimage, travel for learning, exposure to Arabic literacy, etc.). Among the myriad questions that the phenomenon of religious change evokes - namely those concerned with cultural, social, political, and identity transformation - the issue of linguistic influences and the relationship between Tigre and Arabic is an important one. The matter is not without its particular complexities since both languages are Semitic, signifying that similarities are not necessarily due to borrowing, but may reflect more remote affinities in the course of the evolution of both languages.

The second historical trend characterizing an enlargement of scale is the expansion of commercial activities and its impact on areas of western, northern and eastern Eritrea. With the Red Sea port of Massawa serving as a gate or outlet for the importation and exportation of commodities, the area has of course been connected to a complex web of long-distance trade routes and networks originating in northern and western Africa for a long time. Yet, what has been termed the ‘transportation revolution,’ namely the introduction of steamship navigation to the Red Sea and western Indian Ocean in the late 1820s and early 1830s, gradually transformed the commercial structures, roles and activities of all adjacent areas. It accelerated connections between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean and was characterized mainly by the amplified trans-regional flow of capital, labor, commercial expertise, and services. Intensified interconnections placed higher demands on producing areas in the Red Sea hinterlands and along the corridors through which commodities were transported towards port towns on the coasts.

             Portrait of girl from Tigre tribe in traditional dress

The Tigre area too was significantly affected and evidence clearly points to the redynamization of the Kassala- Keren-Massawa caravan trade corridor which animated a regional trade and exchange system that grew increasingly brisk with the general trends of commercialization in the wider area. Commercial intensification along the caravan trade route drew to it a wide variety of producers, porters and small-scale traders. Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists traded hides, butter, milk, camels, cows and agricultural products in return for a wide variety of cloths and manufactured products from India, Egypt and beyond which were imported at Massawa. Commercialization also increased agricultural production in important ways. Products brought to regional markets along the trade route or directly to Massawa were increasingly destined for exportation, marking a shift from previous commercial patterns.
To summarize, the economic history of the area suggests that prior to mid-century, trade occurred largely within two discrete spheres of exchange: one involving luxury goods and another subsistence goods. Prestige goods were exchanged for goods in the same category and subsistence goods for other subsistence goods, thus constituting multi-centric economies. With the expansion of global, interregional and regional trade, the
borders between the two spheres of exchange broke down and an increasing shift towards market trade took place. This came about largely through growing monetization and the appearance of new regional and local markets where subsistence goods could be exchanged in return for prestige goods. The gradual penetration of money relations from Massawa to the inland and the development of regional and local markets in its surroundings are emblematic of the transition to a more market-oriented economy.
In other words, commercial expansion prompted the diversification and intensification of modes of production and exchange, leading to the commodification of the regional economy, which ultimately also transformedsocial relations among the inhabitants of the area. Commercial intensification generated the dynamic movement of people and ideas across the area. It goes without saying that the diffusion of Islam often went hand in hand with trade. The third aspect of the expansion of interregional connections is
grounded in the political realm and is highly germane to the economic developments discussed. Increasingly sought after by regional northeastern African and European imperialist powers, the Tigre frontier space (as well as other adjacent areas) grew increasingly integrated with northeastern African regional political spaces and ultimately European colonial empires. Both the decline of the Funj sultanate of Sinnar – culminating in its
demise in 1821 – and the disintegration of centralized political authority of the highland Abyssinian state, known as the Zämänä mäsafint (1769-1855), had important effects on the areas that lay between them, including the Tigre space.
Egyptian imperialism under Muhammad ‘Ali and the conquest of the Sudan in 1820 only propelled mounting imperialist interest and encroachment in northeast Africa at large. In 1840 Muhammad ‘Ali’s army took
Kassala. From there a progressive takeover of Tigre areas was set in motion. Here too, the spread of Islam is highly connected with Egyptian encroachments in the area, particularly through Egyptian association with the Khatmiyya Sufi order. The three spheres – politics, the economy and religion – are intimately intertwined. The introduction of steamship navigation and the commercial revival in the Red Sea area also spurred European interest, roughly starting in the 1840s, but also before. Several Europeans, for example the Swiss Werner Munzinger, famously attempted to prompt European governments to take control over the Bogos area, by underlining the area’s promising economic potential. Such efforts eventually led to a pattern of checkered diplomatic and imperialist somewhat fantastic contestations between several European governments.
Mounting struggles between Ethiopians and Egyptians over the lowlands and the northern escarpments put Tigre and Bilin societies under considerable pressure. In the later years of the Zämänä mäsafint, one writer illustrated the point by referring to the lowland nomad populations as those “flying-fish” who “are preyed on by all.” From mid century onwards the newly reorganized Ethiopian polity to the south of the area emerged out of the Zämänä mäsafint and participated even more forcefully in struggles for power and dominance in the areas lying along its northernmost limits.
Clearly, I am touching on very complex historical processes involving a host of actors in metropoles and “on the spot” (government envoys, missionaries, traders). What is important to highlight is that throughout the
nineteenth century, the competition between Egyptians, highland Habesha and Europeans had several effects on the area and its inhabitants. First, it put Tigre societies under considerable sets of pressures propelling the development of multifarious political allegiances and affiliations in these communities’ pursuit of security and livelihood. Second, it resulted in the crystallization or rigidification of notions of sovereignty and the gradual
sharpening of political borders which were much more flexible, interconnected and porous before the mid nineteenth century. It culminated with the European demarcation of colonial borders towards the end of the nineteenth century.
To conclude this section, the three macro-level tendencies generated intensified migration and circulation, greater mobility and greater exposure to other areas, products, peoples and ideas which circulated more dynamically across northeast Africa and the Red Sea area. Yet, paradoxically, the imposition of colonial rule in the end of the nineteenth century restricted mobility and confined Tigre societies – at least formally – within the boundaries of Italian Eritrea. Cross-border trade, smuggling and population movement continued and posed a challenge to the colonial authorities both in Italian Eritrea and British Sudan. The episode which epitomizes this in the most vivid terms is the famous “Habab defection” in January 1895, when almost the entire group left northwestern Eritrea and crossed into the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan as an act of protest against Italian authoritarianism and in order to escape from the heavy taxation imposed by the Italian colonial government. After several weeks in the Sudan most crossed back into Eritrea.

Regional Integration and Incorporation
The second level of large-scale trends is one of regional integration and incorporation. The emphasis here is the laying out of social, political, commercial, and (Muslim) religious networks, relationships and alliances
which contributed to the molding of an interconnected space, a region or meta-region, in areas of eastern, northern and western Eritrea. Here again,I briefly discuss several processes that follow the previous categories, namely the role of Islam, economic dimensions and political aspects. I also suggest that by the end of the nineteenth century, as European colonial powers – chiefly Italy – partitioned the region, the same networks and connections came under considerable pressures that undermined their very
foundations.
The activities of Sufi orders and holy families in the spectacular wave of conversion of Tigre-speaking peoples characterized the creation of what can be termed an ‘Islamic space’ in areas of western, northern and eastern Eritrea. I have already noted the central role of the Khatmiyya in conversion, in rooting Islamic practices among societies of the area and in creating both cross-regional and intra-regional networks of representatives (khulafa’) of the order. In some ways religious change in the middle decades of the nineteenth century represents quite neatly the formation of a sort of ‘Muslim arch’ in the eastern and western lowlands as well as the northern appendages of the plateau. It materialized a boundary on one level, even though other factors which may be understood as characteristic to a frontier situation (the multiplicity of political loyalties and its relationship to religious allegiances), also bred divisions, even within groups and between groups in the area (for example the Bilin and Mänsa‘, both of whom are divided in religious affiliation between Muslims and Christians).
The Khatmiyya was not alone in the diffusion of Islam. Tigre holy families and clans such as the ‘Ad Shaykh, ‘Ad Darqi, ‘Ad Mu‘allim and others also transmitted Islamic education and religious expertise within
essentially recently-converted Tigre-speaking societies. Some of these clans operated in close collaboration with the powerful Hergigo-based Na’ib family. One of the holy families whose territorial establishment in the Tigre space exemplifies neatly regional incorporation and the creation of an ‘Islamic space’ is the ‘Ad Shaykh. Claiming a founding ancestor who had reached the Eritrean area from the Hijaz, the ‘Ad Shaykh family split at some point, possibly in the eighteenth century, and began to spread throughout the western, northern and eastern regions of the Eritrean lowlands. Several of the founding ancestor’s sons settled in the ‘Ansäba and Barka valleys while others stayed in the Sahel, and others migrated to the north, as far as Tokar in the Sudan. The most influential branch settled in Sämhar where it established its center in Emberemi. Territorial dispersal broadened the family’s influence and networks, and considerably increased its access to resources.
The role of holy families and clans also led to the proliferation of holy men (awliya’) across the Tigre area. One of the best examples is the ‘Ad Shaykh holy man shaykh Muhammad b. ‘Ali b. al-Amin from Emberemi who could be counted among the most influential religious figures of the coastal region from the 1840s to his death in 1877. Local and regional holy men attracted followers from a wide region cutting across localities. After their death, yearly ziyaras/hawliyyas developed around their tombs and shrines bringing together people from a broad region of Tigre (and also Saho) speaking areas. Holy men’s tombs appealed to people since it was common belief that the soul of a saint lingers around the tomb, and that the saint’s baraka - even after death - had the power to aid people seeking saintly intervention through prayers, the performing of rituals and offerings. Ziyaras and hawliyyas were wide-ranging and instrumental in creating and crystallizing spaces and circuits of religious and social confluence among Muslims chiefly in the Tigre region and also beyond it.
Yet the same ‘Islamic space’ whose development I have outlined, came under momentous pressures as a result of the Mahdiyya revolt in the Sudan beginning in the early 1880s. The spillover of the Mahdiyya into Eritrea constituted a divisive factor for Tigre communities. Indeed, the Muslim groups inhabiting the region between Kassala and Massawa found themselves in a delicate situation, increasingly divided and caught in between pro-Mahdist and anti-Mahdist positions and loyalties. The struggle between these two positions was mirrored in competition and antagonism between the Khatmiyya and the ‘Ad Shaykh, the former allied with the Egyptians and later the Italians, while elements of the ‘Ad Shaykh were identified with the Mahdists. Early Italian colonial ‘practice’ in this context is also revealing. In attempting to undermine the authority of the ‘Ad Shaykh family – whose influence across the broader area (and especially among the Habab and the Beni ‘Amer) was ever growing – Governor Ferdinando Martini (in office 1897-1907) devised a number of measures. In 1903 he deliberately severed the group and its structures of authority by placing the Barka and Sahel/Sämhar branches under distinct commissariati; in 1904-5 he also ended their exemption from tribute. Martini’s strategy aimed at empowering the Khatmiyya so it would exercise its control over Tigre communities instead of the ‘Ad Shaykh which it sought to weaken.

As for economic factors that promoted regional cohesion and incorporation on the basis of what I have already outlined, one thinks of the establishment and development of market towns and regional markets located on the re-dynamized caravan trade routes, as well as the organization of specialized and complementary regional transportation networks. For example, it appears that a specific clan of the ‘Ad Tämaryam as well as Habab cameleers provided transportation services between Massawa, Keren and the Barka region. The older system of complementary modes of production – pastoralism, agro-pastoralism and farming, in addition to a growing number of trading communities or individuals – adjusted to the new
exportation-oriented regional economic configuration.
An important aspect of economic determinants as integrating factors was the role and development of the port of Massawa as a regional capital which drew to it a wide variety of producers, traders and transporters.  Massawa’s rise to its position as a major Red Sea hub crystallized and cemented even further its hinterlands. The port’s role as the focal point for economic and political, but also social, religious and cultural activities and influence throughout the region was further enhanced. Keren too grew to be a relatively important urban centre, whose markets served both its area and the broader regional economic system. Yet it could be argued thatgrowing economic diversification, commercialization, and monetization also bred new kinds of inequalities and opportunities for Tigre communities. Moreover, the imposition of colonial rule and the demarcation of boundaries at the end of the nineteenth century hindered the smooth and brisk flow of commerce across the wider region.
Image
Mensa'e Tigre man from Keren, Eritrea

The last aspect of regional incorporation concerns the political sphere. It highlights the central role of the Hergigo-based Na’ibs in forming and cementing regional networks and circuits and imposing a hegemonic order on an area inhabited chiefly by Tigre and Saho-speaking communities. The Na’ib family traced its presence in the Sämhar to several Bäläw families who had migrated from the eastern Sudan into Eritrea around the fifteenth century. The family developed into a potent local-regional dynasty in the coastal and lowland areas of Eritrea. At some point after having occupied Massawa in 1557, the Ottomans devolved power to the dynasty by appointing its chief as their na’ib, or ‘deputy’. In contrast with what I have
conceptualized as the Islamic and economic factors, which are essentially nineteenth-century phenomena, the heyday of the Na’ibs goes back to at least the early to middle decades of the eighteenth century. The conjunction of the weakening of the Funj polity, the state of political instability in the central and northern highlands, and the decline of Ottoman interest in their province of Habesh provided a sort of power vacuum and fertile ground for the expansion and consolidation of Na’ib dominance in regions of eastern, northern and, to some degree, western Eritrea.
Image
Beni-Amir Tigre from Barka

Under Ottoman indirect rule, the authority of the Na’ibs as regional power brokers grew significantly and in the second half of the eighteenth century they were the most powerful rulers in a vast area of modern Eritrea. At the peak of their power they extended their hegemony over the totality of Tigre-speaking pastoral and agro-pastoral populations in the regions of Sämhar, Sahel, and the northern coasts. The Na’ibs and their
associates controlled valuable grazing lands, caravan stations and routes, the means of transportation, strategic market villages and centers of commercial exchange in Massawa’s orbit (eg. ‘Aylät, ‘Asus, Gumhot). They also collected tribute from those societies coming under their influence and were heavily involved in “tribal” politics by investing chiefs, administering justice and forging marriage alliances. They operated energetically in spreading Islam among mostly Tigre-speaking communities through their alliances with several holy families such as the ‘Ad Shaykh, the ‘Ad Mua‘llim and the ‘Ad Darqi.
Among several outcomes, the methods and strategies by which the Na’ibs have established and developed their control laid down the infrastructure of networks, alliances and spheres of influence that gravitated
towards Massawa as the chief urban center in that region. The role of the Na’ibs in the region molded political, commercial, social and religious networks and fields of action which contributed directly to the shaping of an interconnected and interrelated space in eastern and northern Eritrea. The Na’ibs maintained their autonomy under Ottoman indirect control until the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

Nevertheless, during the 1840s and 1850s, they found themselves in the midst of escalating power struggles between Ottomans, Egyptians and northern Habesha highlanders, amounting to a sort of ‘Scramble for the Coasts’. These trials of power culminated in the establishment of direct Egyptian administration in Massawa and the coastlands (1865-1885) – followed by the advent of Italian colonialism (since 1885). They heavily eroded the power of the Na’ibs and diminished their political influence. Like with the Mahdiyya, which
undermined notions of regional cohesiveness established up to the 1880s, the gradual erosion of Na’ib dominance by external imperialist powers also thwarted structures and patterns of regional integrity formerly laid down.
Image
                         Tigre man from Barka Valley
SOURCE:http://modaina.com/files/history_and_language_of_the_tigre.pdf

          The Tribes that know the Tigre language and their 
                              way of living.
             These are the tribes whose fathers spoke Tigre.

1. Mänsa' Bet-'Abrehe and Mänsa’ Bet-Sahaqan.
These two were brothers, but they parted from each other. And now they have become two tribes; and they are called the two Mänsa’, or the two Haygat. Their language is Tigre only. Their living is from live stock [viz. cows and goats], and from tilling the soil. But nowadays they have not much cattle, and they live by ploughing. Their religion was formerly Christianity, and each had a church, and priests. But, later on their (last), priests did not know how to read.. Then the Mohammedans came to their country and converted them to Islam. And the majority of them became Mohammedans: a few, however, are Christians up to this day. Each of them has a village as its living place; and this village is not moved [like the camps of the nomads]. But sometimes they change the place of their villages. The village of the, Bet-'Abrehe was formerly at Haygat. And later on it [was] moved from Haygat to Gäläb.
And the village went down from Gäläb twice: the first time it was located at Tasasa. The second time,  however, it went down to Laba; and .. a is still ..(call)ed Deman-degge (i. e. ruins of the village). On the
other hand, it went (up) to 'Ag’aro, once. And later on it moved from there to Dangura. After this it returned to Gäläb, and there it is up to this day. The houses of the village [which], they build [are] qesasa (huts, Fig. 23) and seqlö (round houses,); and within they make a small interior house of mats. When they move about they put their loads on oxen and mules and donkeys.

                                Veiled Tigre woman,Massawa,Eritrea

The village of the Bet-Sahaqan however, was in former days at Hamhem. Then it moved to the bushes of
Mehélab, and there it is up to this day. Their houses and their pack animals are like those of the Bet-'Abrehe. But. now the village of Mehélab is shifting gradually to another place because the water is now far from them.
2. The Red Marya and the Black Marya.
The Red Marya and the Black Marya are brothers. And the ancestors of the two Marya and of the two
Mänsa were brothers: they were called Maryu and Mansu. Later on they parted from each other and
each one of them grew into two divisions: Thus the Red Marya and the Black Marya were separated
from each other and each one of them lived in its [own] village and in its [own] country. And now they
are called the two Marya, or the Red and the Black Marya. Their language is Tigre only. Their living is
from cattle; but they plough a little also. Their religion was formerly in their ancestors time, Christianity.
But afterwards they were converted to Islam, and they are all Mohammedans now. They have their
dwelling places each on his field. And they live together by twos and threes; that is to say, those whose
lands are near each other live together. In this way their villages are scattered, and each one of them lives
near his land. And they build huts (qesasa). Their beasts of burden are oxen, donkeys and a few mules.
3. The Three Maflas Habab, ‘Ad Temaryam and ‘Ad Takles.

The ancestor of these three was Asgade. 'Asgade came down from the highland of Kabasa. Some say,
'Asgade started from the Tigray (1) country, and on his way to this p (our) country he halted in the
country of Bet-Tosem (DacchiToscim) at ‘Ad Nefäs. Later on he left 'Ad Nefäs and went down to this
region where his descendants live now. But the brother of 'Asgede stayed at ‘Ad Nefas. And for this
reason the ancestor of t he Three Maflas and the ancestor of 'Ad Nefas are brothers. And the descendants
of the people of Asgade and of his brother who stayed in the Tigray country are there up to this day: they
are called the sons of Asgade. But some say: the country of Asgade- is 'Ad Nefas, and from there Asgade
came down, and his brothers stayed there.

And later on 'Asgade begat Maflas. And Maflas begat Hebtes and Takles and 'Abib, The descendants of
Hebtes are the Habab: a part of the Habab live on this side of the frontier [between the English territory
and the Italian colony], and another part beyond. The descendants of Takles are the 'Ad Takles. 'Abib
was the father of the 'Ad Temaryam. And 'Ad Hebtes - or Habab 'Ad Takles and 'Ad Temaryam are
together called the Three Mafläs, and also the Three Habab. The language of all of them is Tigre; the
religion of all of them was originally Christianity.

For even the ‘Ad Hebtes used to have a church and a tabot and priests. Then Kantebay Gaweg was
converted to Islam, and he said to the priest: 'Break the tabot." And the priest said: “I dare not break the
tabot of Mary." And Kantubay Gäweg took the tabot himself and chopped it with an ax. Then even the
priests became Mohammedans, and all their descendants are up to this day sheks of the tribe.
And all the people of the Three Maflas embraced Islam, and they are all now Mohammedans.
Their living is from live stock, camels, goats and sheep. Their houses are of mats; but in their villages they
also put branches with leaves on their huts. Their villages move to the lowlands and to the highlands;
and their animals pasture at a place that is as far as day's journey distant from them. And men bring the
milk from the herds and flocks to the village; or else, each one keeps some of his animals that give milk
near the village. When they move, they put their loads on camels and oxen and donkeys, and sometimes
mules. But before their villages move they send first their furniture ahead to the place where they are to
go, And their villages are located [always] at the same place in the highlands, and again in the lowlands.
The village of the 'Ad Hebtes is located at Naqfa, when it is in the highlands, and at 'Algena or WadGän, when it is in the lowlands. The village of the 'Ad Takles [, however,] has no certain places; but
generally it is located at 'Ede-'Atba, when it is in the highlands, and at Habarö, when it is in the
lowlands. And the village of the ‘Ad Temaryam is located at 'Af-'Abad, when it is in the highlands, and
at 'Äkät, when it is in the lowlands. The people of the Three Maflas do not know how to plough. But a
few of the bondsmen of the ‘Ad Temaryam do plough a little. And the Three Maflas buy the corn from
the Two Mänsa', from the Bét-Guk and from the Belen. Or else, they buy corn and rice from Massaua.
i) I.e. the province generally known by its Amharic name Tigre.
4. The Bet-Guk or Bet-Gäribruk.
Their ancestor came down from Kabasa. And some say that the ancestor of the Bet-Guk was a relative of
'Asgäde; and for this reason the Bet-Guk and the Three Maflas are akin to each other. Some again say
that the ancestor of the Bet-Guk, Kantebay Gäribruk - Zär'i-Beruk -, came down from Wakki, (1) and
that the descendants of his brothers are there up to this day. The language of the Bet-Guk is Tigre. Their
religion was formerly Christianity, but now they have embraced Islam. Their living is from ploughing and
from live stock (cows and some goats); but now they have not much cattle: they live by ploughing. Their
village is Wäzent'a't: their houses are qesasa. The ancestor of these three was Asgade. 'Asgade came
down from the highland of Kabasa. Some say, 'Asgade started from the Tigray (1) country, and on his
way to this p (our) country he halted in the country of Bet-Tosem (DacchiToscim) at ‘Ad Nefäs. Later on
he left 'Ad Nefäs and went down to this region where his descendants live now. But the brother of
'Asgede stayed at ‘Ad Nefas. And for this reason the ancestor of t he Three Maflas and the ancestor of
'Ad Nefas are brothers. And the descendants of the people of Asgade and of his brother who stayed in the
Tigray country are there up to this day: they are called the sons of Asgade. But some say: the country of
Asgade- is 'Ad Nefas, and from there Asgade came down, and his brothers stayed there.
Veiled Tigre girl, Keren Eritrea

And later on 'Asgade begat Maflas. And Maflas begat Hebtes and Takles and 'Abib, The descendants of
Hebtes are the Habab: a part of the Habab live on this side of the frontier [between the English territory
and the Italian colony], and another part beyond. The descendants of Takles are the 'Ad Takles. 'Abib
was the father of the 'Ad Temaryam. And 'Ad Hebtes - or Habab 'Ad Takles and 'Ad Temaryam are
together called the Three Mafläs, and also the Three Habab. The language of all of them is Tigre; the
religion of all of them was originally Christianity.
For even the ‘Ad Hebtes used to have a church and a tabot and priests. Then Kantebay Gaweg was
converted to Islam, and he said to the priest: 'Break the tabot." And the priest said: “I dare not break the
tabot of Mary." And Kantubay Gäweg took the tabot himself and chopped it with an ax. Then even the
priests became Mohammedans, and all their descendants are up to this day sheks of the tribe.
5. The Three Möté'at: 'Asus, Gemhöt and 'Aylät.
The language of these three is Tigre only. The people of the Mawatte' are of different origins: some of
them are of Balau origin; and some of them are 'Asraf. (1) And besides these that are named there are
found a few others. The religion of all of them is Islam. Their living is from camels, cattle, goats and
sheep; a few of them, however, plough. Their houses are ma'ddani [i. e. square houses of wood and
branches, Fig. 25] and qesasa. These three do not move about. Their beasts of burden are camels, oxen,
donkeys and a few mules. The place where they buy and purchase everything is Massaua.
1)I.e. Arabs that came from the Barka country.
Tigre woman,keren,Eritrea

6. Nabara and Gadam-Sega.
The language of these people also is Tigre. But the Tigre of the Nabara is not pure: it is between Tigre
and Tigrina. They used to be counted formerly with the Moté'at; but now they are by themselves. Their
living is from cattle and goats, and from ploughing. Their houses are of mats and of branches. Their
beasts of burden are oxen and mules and donkeys. They live in the Moté'at country; their religion is
Islam.
7- Mäshalit.
Their language is Tigre. They say that they are originally related to the Assaorta. The living of the
Mäshallt - from sahel [i. e. the coast] - is from cattle, goats, sheep and a few camels; they work also at
Massaua. They have no village: they are nomads and roam about, following their herds. Most of the time
they live in the plain. The religion of all of them is Islam. Their houses are of mats. When they move they
put their loads on oxen, donkeys, mules and camels. The only corn they eat is bought: they do not plough.
Their only country is Waqiro [in the plain, 1/2 day's journey westward of Hetemlo).
8. The people of Medun.
Those who live at 'Emkullu, Hetemlo, at Massaua, at Dakano - or Hergigo [i. e. Archico]- all speak the
Tigre language. But most of them have also learned Arabic. They are all Mohammedans. They are of
different origins, but their leaders are mostly of Balau origin. Their living is from trading. Their houses
are ma'ddani, qesasa and merabba' [i. e. stone-houses].
9. 'Ad S(h)uma and 'Ad 'Aha and 'Ad 'Askar.
Their language is Tigre only. They are all Mohammedans. They are of different origins, and they used to
be counted with the Möte’at people. The ‘Ad Suma, however, are related among themselves. The ancestor
of the ‘Ad Suma had married a woman called S(h)uma; then he begat a few sons of her and died. And
Suma reared her children, and she was very brave and well known. And afterwards, when her children
had their own houses they were called 'Ad Suma. And they are called up to this day 'Ad Suma after the
name of their ancestress. The only corn they eat is bought. Their houses are of mats. And they roam about
following their herds everywhere. Their beasts of burden are oxen and mules and donkeys.

10. Wayra and 'Aflanda.
The language of these [peoples] is Tigre. They are all Mohammedans. The ancestor of the 'Aflanda came
as a Mohammedan from the sea on the road of the Gash river. (1) And some of his descendants live in the
Barka country; some in the Habab country, some in the country of the Two Mänsa'; some, again, live at
Suakin - or Kar [near Suakin] -. The Wayra live in the Moté’at country, everywhere. The living of these
people is from cattle, camels, sheep and goats. And they roam about everywhere following their herds.
Their houses are of mats. And their beasts of burden are camels, oxen, donkeys and mules. And they eat
the corn which they buy from everywhere.
Perhaps Suakin-Chartoum-Kassala.
11.Säura and cAd Ma’allem and 'Asfada.
The language of all of them is Tigre. They are all Mohammedans. The Saura and the ‘Ad Ma'allem used
to be counted with the ‘Ad Temaryam: but now they are counted by themselves, and each of them has its
own village. The 'Asfa'da used to be counted with the Habab, but now they are separated from them (and
live] by themselves. All these [three tribes] call their village zaga. And the zagas of the Saura and the 'Ad
Ma'allem go up and down in the country of the 'Ad Temaryam. And even the 'Asfada live there with
their zaga and go up and down. The houses of the zagas are of mats. Their beasts of burden are camels,
oxen, donkeys and a few mules. Their living is from camels and cattle. And they buy corn from other
countries.
12.The 'Ad S(h)ek.
Their language is Tigre. And they are all Mohammedans. Their living is from camels, cattle, sheep and
goats. Their country is between the Habab and the 'Ad Temaryam. And their village is called Zaga ‘Ad
Sek. They go down to the lowlands and up to the highlands; their beasts of burden are camels and oxen
and donkeys. And the houses of the zaga are of mats. And the only corn which they get is that which
they buy.
. They are sometimes called also by the name of their chief, e. g. 'Ad Sek'Alamin formerly, and now 'Ad
Sek-'Amar.
13. The Bet-Ma’ala, Ganifra and Bet-Ba’ass(h)o.
The language of all of them is Tigre. They are all Mohammedans. Their ancestors came from the sea at
Suakin. And each one of them used to live as a tribe by itself. But later on the Ganifra and the BetBa'asso decreased in number, and they united with the Bet-Ma’ala. And now they are counted with the
Bet-Ma’ala. Their living is from camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Their houses are of mats. And they go up
and down following their herds. Their beasts of burden are camels, oxen and donkeys.


14. 'Algäden and Sabdärat.
Their language is Tigre. And their ancestors came as Mohammedans from the sea; and the descendants of
them are Mohammedans up to this day. Their living is from ploughing and from cattle. But I do not
know much about their villages and their beasts of burden. It is said, however, that they have horses.

15. The 'Ad Häséri
Their language is Tigre; hut they know also the language of the Hedarab, or Min-Amer. They are all
Mohammedans. Their living is from camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Their houses are of mats. And, their v
illage is called zaga; and they go down to the lowlands and up to the highlands. Their beasts of burden
are camels, oxen and donkeys. Of the 'Ad Haséri some live on this side of the frontier and some beyond.
II. These are the tribes that know the Tigre language, but whose fathers had another language. These
tribes have a different language of their own country, but they have learned the Tigre language, and some
of them speak it well

.Belen. (1)
All the people of the Belen country have a language of their own; but, on the other hand, all of them know the Tigre language also. The Belen were originally all Christians,, hut now half of them have become Mohammedans. Their living is from ploughing and from cattle and goats. Their villages stay each at its place: they do not move. Their houses are [of the] qes'asa kind. Their beasts of burden are oxen and donkeys and mules i) I. e. Bilin or Bogos.
2. The Min-'Amer.
Their language is Hedarab; but most of them know also the Tigre language. They are all Mohammedans. Their living is from camels and cattle and goats. Their villages are called zaga. And sometimes they move. The houses of the villages are of mats. Their beasts of burden are camels and a few donkeys and oxen. They ride also on camels and even on horses.
3. Kabasa.
Their language is Tigrina. But the Tigrina and the Tigre resemble each other, and their people understand
each other to a certain degree. On the other hand, many of the Kabasa people know the Tigre language,
and there are also Tigre people that know the Tigrina language. But of the people of Gernmägan - or
Dembäzan - [those who live] in the village of Wara, at Bet-Mahare - or Däqqi Mahare -, and at Gurität,
know the Tigre language well.
Tigre woman

4. Säuhö or 'Asawerta (Saho or Assaorta).
Their language is different; but many of them know the Tigre language. Their religion is Islam. Their living is from cattle, camels, goats and sheep. And some of them trade along the coast of the bay of Gemez. (1) Their houses are of the vna'adani and qesasa kind. Their villages do not move about. Their beasts of burden are camels, donkeys and mules. i.e. the bay of Adulis.

Source: Publications of the Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia.
Enno littmann
Leyden 1910
Contributed by Aida Kidane
SOURCE:http://www.deqebat.com/pdf006/Tigre_Eritreanorigin_01.pdf

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