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Visit Dire Dawa, Ethiopia!

This captivating city offers a unique and authentic experience for travelers seeking to learn about the history, culture, and beauty within Ethiopia.

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About the City

Dire Dawa (ድሬዳዋ) is a diverse city in eastern Ethiopia with a population of around 450,000. Its establishment dates back to 1902 when it became a major stop on the new railway line connecting the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to its neighboring country, Djibouti. Dire Dawa remains a major transportation hub, especially for the holy Islamic city Harar about 30 miles away. The Dachatu Wadi (river) running through Dire Dawa separates the city into two regions: Kezira, the colonial style quarter with European influence, and Megaala, the old islamic quarter with a large Muslim population. The melting pot of Dire Dawa stands as a testament to Ethiopia's rich cultural heritage and progressive development.

Things to Do

Markets

Visit one of the bustling markets located in Megaala where farmers and merchants gather to sell a wide variety of products.

The Kafira market is known for its food selection, including spices, meats, fruits, and vegetables. As the oldest market in Dire Dawa, it has expanded to sell clothing, tools, and much more.

The Ashewa market is the place to buy secondhand clothing items and is also a popular gathering spot for taxi drivers.

Popular items at the Taiwan Indoor Market, which is organized in a warehouse, are furniture, electronics, bags, and cosmetics.

To purchase khat, visit the Chattera Market, and enjoy this stimulant with the clusters of people on nearby streets.

Landmarks

Railway Station: This stop on the French-made railway is an important landmark in the Dire Dawa. Visit the museum and learn about the city's history.

Imperial Palace: This former residence of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie stands near the entrance to Megaala and has been renovated by Turkish and Arab architects. 

Admire the architecture of the following religious landmarks throughout Dire Dawa:

In Megaala

  • Juma’a Mosque

  • Sheikh Issa Mosque

In Kezira

  • Greek Orthodox Church

  • Saint Mikael Orthodox Church

  • Armenian Orthodox Church

  • Saint Augustine Catholic Church

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"Old Train Station of Dire Dawa," Mapcarta.

Culture and Cuisine

A central Ethiopian social concept is yilugnta, which roughly translates selflessness and a concern for others’ thoughts. Ethiopians embody this self-consciousness and thus tend to be polite and aim to fit in.

Coffee-lovers should take part in the jebena buna coffee ritual. A woman performs this slow traditional process which begins with coffee beans that are cleaned, roasted, ground, and brewed into the final product. There are three rounds of coffee—abol, tona, and bereka—served with sugar and often a side of popcorn.

Connect with locals by having some khat, or qat, a popular stimulant and an abundant plant in the area. The Chattara market mentioned above is the best place to purchase the mild drug. 

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Experience Ethiopian cuisine:

Try dora wat (chicken curry)—the national dish of Ethiopia—or a mixed platter, such as mahberawi for a meat variety or yetsom beyaynetu for a vegetarian option. Injera, a sourdough flatbread, is another staple to eat alongside these dishes. For a beverage, try Tej, a honey wine which Ethiopians have enjoyed for over 3000 years. 

See restaurant recommendations below.

Experiences Nearby

In Harar, feed spotted hyenas, and come face to face with the beautiful animals which have developed a gentle relationship with humans in the area over many years.

Rimbaud's House & Museum, also located in Harar and pictured to the right, is a beautiful building that once housed the French poet Arthur Rimbaud.

In Addis Ababa, see a replica of the skeleton of “Lucy,” an early human ancestor from 3.2 mya, which is preserved in the National Museum of Ethiopia.

Travel Information

Languages: The official language of Ethiopia is Amharic, but other common languages spoken in Dire Dawa are Somali, Oromo, and English. Learn some Amharic greetings such as "Ameseginalehu," meaning thank you, to connect with the locals.

Transportation: There is an airport in Dire Dawa for international and domestic flights. Within the country, Ethiopia has a very small number of cars relative to its population. To travel between cities, buses, trains, and even donkeys are common options. 

Weather: As one of the warmest regions in Ethiopia, Dire Dawa is hot year-round, so be prepared for high temperatures which range from 58°F to 91°F throughout the year. Visiting between September and February offers more moderate conditions for outdoor activities.

Recommendations

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Tour Guide: Chacha Eshetey 

To enhance the travel experience, tour with Chacha, a knowledgeable local guide for Harar, Dire Dawa, and Babile.

Phone number: +251 98 509 2541, +251 91 310 6714

Facebook: @chachaeshetey

Restaurants​

  • Family Snack - Ethiopian and Italian food

  • Menelaos Roast Chicken - Greek food

  • Paradiso - Italian food

  • Ashu Kitfo - Ethiopian meats

  • Dubai Restaurant - Ethiopian food (specializes in goat meat)

Cafes​

  • Dus Cafe

  • Elga Cafe

  • Central Cafe

  • Madam Meheret’s Street-Coffee Place

Resources:

Osmond, Thomas, Nicolas Deleau, and Jonathan Le Péchon. Ethiopian City Guides: Dire Dawa, Shama Books, 2013.

“Old Train Station of Dire Dawa.” Mapcarta, https://mapcarta.com/W223383556.

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