The colourful colonial era buildings throughout Dire Dawa are 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 cafés 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 in Dire Dawa
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 the 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's just part of the Chattara hustle.
Visit the Ethiopia-Djibouti Rail yard
Considered the 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 remains 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 accessible. There is an extensive network of buses and other public transport for getting around, and if you book with us all of this will be arranged for you.
An oasis of colourful and creative architecture, Dire Dawa is well worth a visit if you have extra time to spend in Ethiopia. If you're heading to Harar to feed the hyenas, you'll pass through Dire Dawa on your way to and from.
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