Set on the Dachata River, Dire Dawa blends colourful African charm with French, Islamic, Italian and Greek influences. The city is a melting pot of cultures, with beautiful mosques standing alongside French colonial architecture and Greek Orthodox churches. When you’re not getting lost in bustling markets, work your way through atmospheric coffee houses, sweet shops and family-run restaurants.
Things to do
Featuring tree-lined streets and elegant architecture, Kezira is the most charismatic neighbourhood in Dire Dawa. The colonial quarter was once a stomping ground for French settlers and has retained much of its European charm. There are some excellent cafes in the neighbourhood, most serving locally sourced Ethiopian coffee.
Also known as Megala, the Old Town charms visitors with its bustling markets and beautiful mosques. Kafira Market anchors the district and is brimming with fresh fruit and vegetables from across the region. Entrance to the labyrinth-like market is through a set of beautiful Moorish-inspired arches.
Many merchants transport goods to the market via camels, which you can see resting by the riverbed. For a slightly more chaotic atmosphere, head to the Ashawa Market livestock market, where you’ll find sheep, cows, goats, donkeys and of course, camels.
Just outside the city, Porc Epic Cave showcases some of the oldest rock art in Ethiopia. The archaeological site dates back to the Middle Stone Age and is decorated with ancient rock paintings. Remnants of bones and tools have also been found in the caves.
Neighbourhoods such as Kezira and Megala are pedestrian-friendly and easy to get around on foot. Air-conditioned taxis are a comfortable way to get from A to B in Dire Dawa, while locals use shared motorised rickshaws known as “bajajs” to get around. Dire Dawa - Aba Tenna Dejazmach Yilma International Airport is a 10-minute drive from the city centre.