Tigray (ትግራይ, ) is a historical region and province of Ethiopia. It encompasses most of the territories of Tigrinya-speakers (and a few minority groups closely linked with them) in Ethiopia; Tigray is separated from the northern Tigrinya territories by the River Mereb, now serving as the state border to Eritrea.
The great majority of inhabitants are Orthodox Christians (95.5% in 1994), with the exception of a small, but important Muslim subgroup (Jeberti) and a few Catholics (mainly Irob). Protestantism is only a very recent urban phenomenon. Despite a general impression of ethnic and cultural homogeneity, there are a few ethnic minorities, especially at the borders of Tigray, belonging to a non-Tigrinya groups, such as the Saho-speaking Irob at the north-eastern border to Eritrea, the Raya Oromo in the south-east (mostly speaking Tigrinya today), the Agaw-speaking H̬amta in Abergele north of Wag, a few Kunama in the Habesha Kunama woreda east of Humera, and scattered peripheral groups in the western lowlands, such as the Chare of the Sellim Bet (related with the Gumuz) and Tukrir in the Humera area. Some of these groups have adopted Tigrinya as their first language.
Tigray's administrative capital is Mekelle. Administratively, Tigray was divided into four, later six zones (zoba), which replaced the former awrajjas in 1991 (names with number of inhabitants of the four original zones in the year 2005 with their capitals) : Western Zone (ca. 1 million inhabitants; Humera), Eastern Zone (ca. 800,000 inhabitants; Adigrat), Central Zone (ca. 1.3 million inhabitants; Aksum), Southern Zone (ca. 1.2 million inhabitants; Maychew); in a recent administrative reform some of these were split and first a North-Western Zone (Enda Selassie Shire) and later a South-Eastern Zone (Mekelle) were created.
Tigray went through numerous administrative changes in the course of its history. In 1991 Tigray was radically reshaped. During the reign of Haile Selassie I and also the following Derg period, Tigray did not yet encompass Welqayt (until 1991 having been part of Begemder), while Enderta in eastern Tigray extended over large Afar areas including the salt plains, which were given to Afar kəlləl. Still in the 1930s the regions south of Enderta, i.e. Wajjarat and Angot, formed the separate governorate called "Southern Tigray". Modern Tigray is the result of a merger of diverse historical northern provinces (with Tigrinya and Agaw speakers), which were often independent from each other.