The Bilen (also variously transcribed as Blin, and also formerly known as the Bogo, Bogos[1] or North Agaw[2]) are a Cushitic ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. They are primarily concentrated in central Eritrea, in and around the city of Keren and further south toward Asmara, the nation's capital.

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Christianity (Roman Catholic Church, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church· Islam
Related ethnic groups
other Agaw people



Some of the Bilen entered Eritrea from Ethiopia during the 16th century.[3] Primarily agriculturalists, they number about 96,000 and represent around 2.1% of Eritrea's population.[4]


Traditional Bilen homestead

The Bilen practice both Christianity and Islam. Muslim adherents mainly inhabit rural areas and have intermingled with the adjacent Tigre, while Christian Bilen tend to reside in urban areas and have intermingled with the Biher-Tigrinya.[2]


The Bilen speak the Bilen language as a mother tongue, which belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Many also speak other Afro-Asiatic languages such as Tigre and Tigrinya. In addition, younger Bilen often employ Arabic words and expressions in their everyday speech.[2]


  1. ^ Pease, A. E. (1909-10-16). The Book of the Lion. Ravenio Books.
  2. ^ a b c James Minahan, Miniature empires: a historical dictionary of the newly independent states, (Greenwood Publishing Group: 1998), pp.77-78.
  3. ^ Niaz Murtaza, The Pillage of Sustainability in Eritrea, 1600s-1990s: Rural Communities and the Creeping Shadows of Hegemony, (Greenwood Publishing Group: 1998), p.45
  4. ^ U.S. Department of State - Background Note: Eritrea