Thecolourful colonial era buildings throughout Dire Dawa hark back to groups of Alpine settlements, a stark contrast to the traditional, circular shacks found across Ethiopia.
The fourth-most populous city in Ethiopia, Dire Dawa, which translates to ‘empty plain’ - in reference to its location in one the most arid regions in the country - the city is known for its ornate squares and strong cultural diversity.
The less pleasing, rubbish-strewn Dechatu Wadi river divides the city of Dire Dawa into two halves: “Kezira” and “Megala”.
Kezira is the European-influenced half of the city and known for hosting the once great Imperial Railway Company of Ethiopia. Locals enjoy coffee under the shade of one of the many tree-lined cafes dotted across streets of the town.
To the east of the Dechatu Wadi river is the other quarter of Dire Dawa, “Megala”. This old town has several mosques and large Muslim cemeteries. The famous “Kafira“ market, known for its vast size and bazaar like atmosphere, is a real treat for the senses.
Things to do
Get lost in the Kafira Market
A vast labyrinth in the heart of Megala, the Kafira Market is a traditional open-air marketplace, stocking everything from grains to spices, clothes to electronics – only be sure not get lost in maze of winding, zigzagging streets.
The sight of camel trains plodding in from the dusty plains and the “Gharis” (two-wheeled carts drawn by a horse) strolling around the alleys creates a captivating environment that will take you back to the medieval times.
Have some ‘Khat‘
The mild narcotic plant “khat” native to the region is famous among the locals. Known for its stimulating effect, khat is a big cash crop for Ethiopians and is grown in abundance around the hills of Dire Dawa.
For those wanting to know what the fuss is all about, “Chattara“ market is the best place to get hold of the “green gold”. Just don’t get alarmed by the occasional “Inka, Inka, Inka, ferenji” shout, (the sellers offering you khat) – it just part of the ‘Chattara’ hustle.
Visit the Ethiopia-Djibouti Rail yard
Consideredthe birthplace of the city, the Ethio-Djibouti Railyard is a century-old station and workshop that is home to the remains of the once great Imperial Railway Company of Ethiopia.
Amid the rusty carcasses of long-forgetting steam locomotives is Haile Selassie’s carriage, the private train the Emperor used to escape to Djibouti following the 1935 invasion by the Italians.
Travelling to Dire Dawa
The city has an international and domestic airport so it is easily accesible. There is an extensive network of buses and other public transport.
An oasis of colourful and creative architecture, Dire Dawa is slowly emerging as a key attraction in the area and The Queen of desert is slowly taking her place on the throne as one Ethiopia's most fascinating travel destinations.
Places to Stay
African Village Hotel
Opened in 2011, African Village is one of the best hotels in Dire Dawa. Known for its neat architecture, delightful green compound and excellent service, this hotel is a good accommodation option in Dire Dawa.
Each room is equipped with comfortable beds, neat bathrooms with hot showers, a fan, flat-screen TV and a well-furnished chair and closet. The restaurant in the hotel serves local foods customs paired with international classics.
From the outside, Ras Hotel might look like any other concrete building but take a few steps further and you will be welcomed by the friendly staff, high ceilings, and large dangling chandlers.
The lobby is big and airy and probably the best place to get a decent Wi-Fi in the city. The rooms are clean and spacious offering and the swimming pool in the rear is located nicely within the surrounding garden. All in all, Ras is a pleasant hotel with good service and friendly ambience.
A four-star hotel located in Kezira and just ten minutes away from Dire Dawa Airport, Samrat is a good value for money choice for your stay.
The hotel has 58 rooms, with comfortable beds and clean sheets. The courtyard restaurant offers the best of local and European cuisines and for those wanting a dip there is a decent sized swimming pool and a health center.
Ready to explore Dire Dawa?
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