Dire Dawa

Dire Dawa

Visit Dire Dawa- the Queen City of the Desert

Dire Dawa is a creation of the railway. Its establishment as an urban centre started on December 24, 1902, the very day that the first train arrived at the place where the city stands now.

Dire Dawa in due time rapidly grew into a thriving small town. An American diplomat named R.P Skinner, who passed through the city in 1903 (soon after its establishment) at the head of an American delegation, called it “the Queen city of the desert”!

Places You Should Visit While you are in Dire Dawa

Kezira, the European Centre of Dire Dawa (the Historic European Centre)

The quarter of Kezira/Gezira, which is an Arabic word for a town, was built together with the railway station and was kept under the administration of the French Ethiopian Railway Company till 1936, when, on the 7th of May the first train from Addis Ababa directed by Italian with the 46th Infantry Regiment on board came to Dire Dawa. For the inhabitants of the town, it was obligatory to have a special permit, if they wanted to enter Kezira.

Today, Kezira is still to be found as it was designed in those days. Many of the previous buildings as well as many of old streets trees still exist, creating a nice canopy of trees that invite people to come out of their homes to have a macchiato or coffee in the shade of one of the cafes along the tree lined streets of the town.

The Railway Station – Place of Birth of the City of Dire Dawa

This a little more than 100 years old facility was and still is the life line of the town. The foundation and development of the town is closely related to the railway. Hence, the railway station, apart from being a century old, symbolizes the towns hundred years of existence. It has got a significant historical value to the town.

The Railway Museum of Dire Dawa

There will be two parts of the museum, Part – 1 which is the center part will be located around the old turn table and engine shed. Over here historic, locomotives and wagons will be exposed and explained. Part – 2, next to the Railway station will host historic materials like pictures, construction plans and old movies about the Dire Dawa Railway Station.

The railway area, the Railway Station but also the different workshops, as there is the main workshops, the wood workshop and polstery, the engine workshop and the electric workshop can already be visited.

Dire Dawa Millennium Park

The Millennium Park of Dire Dawa was established in 1997 to celebrate the Ethiopian millennium. The park is located on the road to the Dire Dawa Airport. In the park, there is a boulder monument on which bronzed replica of prehistoric cave paintings are displayed. The cave paintings are believed to have been drawn more than 7,000 years ago.

The park also contains five cottages depicting the traditional cottage-building styles of the five major ethnic groups residing in the city. The traditional cottages display the cultural materials and utensils.

The park, moreover, is intended to serve as a repository of endemic plant species of the administration. The park, with its spectacular view, can  be a very good place to spend some time. There is also an amphitheatre which can accommodate more than 300 audiences at a time.


Kefira Market

The bazazr-like open market-Kefira-is the place where a visitor could see the colourful divers cultures of the people of the Dire Dawa Administration in a single setting.

The previous office of Megala Administration

The building used to serve as the seat of the Chief of the Megal Administration. At that time, the town used to have two administrations; namely, Kezira and Megala administration. Kezira was under the control of the Railway Company while Megala, the section of the two where the indigenous Ethiopians and non-European foreign residents lived, was under the control of the Ethiopian Government.

Henry de Monfreid Building

This building used to belong to Henry de Monfried (1879-1974) – the French adventurer and author. He used the building for the establishment of the first flour factory, and the first electric generating power plant of the town in the early 1920’s.

Mahjan School

This is the school where the children of the large Indian Community living in the Megala section of the town, were provided their education. It was established in 1935.

Balian Crematorium

The large Indian Community that once lived in Dire Dawa used this place for the cremation of their dead fellow countrymen. This crematorium is found in the section of the town called Laga Harre.

Italian Mosque

The mosque is located at the foothill of Ganda Gara, specificall in an area called Laga Harre. It is a historical and religious heritage built by the Italian during their occupation. The purpose of the construction of the mosque was said to be a tactical strategy to with the favor of the Muslim population.

Place to Visit Around Dire Dawa


Harla village is located 15km from Dire Dawa on the road to Harrar. Harla was probably a well designed terraced town located mainly on the right side of the main road on a hilly landscape between two small wadis. On the left side grave site have been identified. Harla is probably a 13th c town with an area of about half sq.km.  It was a walled capital of the Harla Kingdome. As the findings of the site indicated, it had had for a long time commercial link with Middle and Far East countries through the port of Zeila.

Surface collections found by the surrounding peasants include coins written in Arabic and Chinese, pieces of glasses, ornaments, tools for knitting, pottery fragments and a lunar calendar made of stone with two geographical coordinates.

The people of Harla are believed to have been very civilized as ratified by the  findings such as the existing terraces they put in place, the rain water harvesting system they used, and the small handcraft tools they used for tannery, jewel making etc.

Ancient Catholic Church

A Catholic church, which houses a gallery traditional religious art works, is located at Biyo-Awale Kebele Peasants Association some 20 kilo meters away from Dire Daw city to the South-west.  The Awale St. Michael Catholic Church was built some about 125  years ago by a priest called Aba Indrias.

According to some church sources, the missionaries entered the country through port of Zella and made their primary destination at Biyoawale where the church is now located. It can therefore, be considered as an evidence of human activity around the Dire Dawa environ in the near past.

Kulubi St. Gabriel

Kulubi is a town in eastern Ethiopia located in the East Harraghe Zone of the Oromia National Regional State. It has an altitude of 2130meters above sea level.

Situated high on a hill, with views towards the Somalia plains, lays the Kulubi Saint Gabriel Church. An Orthodox church, built by Italians during the Haile Selassie era, the site is visited twice a year by thousands and thousands of Orthodox Christians and believers other religions.

Nowadays, Kulubi Gabriel is a large festival celebrated both in the height of the dry season (December) and in the slightly less popular wet season (July). Pilgrims journey by foot to Kullubi to thank Saint Gabriel for granting them their vow. Most also make offerings of livestock, ornate umbrellas or candles to the church. The Orthodox Christians then sleep around the church, their numbers increasing daily so that the night before the main religious celebration (on the 28 December and 7 July respectively), the church grounds are a sea of white.

The larger festival, which takes place on the land surrounding the church, runs over several days and people make the journey from all over Ethiopia for spiritual fulfillment as well as for recreational reasons. In addition to the profound religious ceremony taking place at the central site, thousands gather in the surrounding church grounds to spend their time eating meat, drinking katikalla and tella (local spirit and beer), and partying through the night.

Be warned, it gets extremely cold at night as it is so high in the mountains, so pack a tent and warm sleeping bags. Buy a gabi, the large white cotton shawls that all the Orthodox Christians wear to keep you warm and help you blend in.

Pre-historic Rock Art Sites

Porc Epic Cave

Porc Epic cave is situated some 2 kilometers south of Dire Dawa at the foot of the escarpment rising from the southern Afar plain and straddling the mouth of the river Datchatu. It is located nears the top of the hill called Garad Erer rises very steeply from the wadi floor on the eastern side. Although the cave is not easily accessible, it commands a view of a great expanse of lower lying, open terrain to the north and of the wadi bed leading southwards into the escarpment (Clark and Willamson 1984),

Hinkuftu Cave

This is a surface cave located at an area called Addis Ketema. The nature of the cave is not yet well known. Some say that the cave leads into a tunnel-like underground passage that travels too far; this needs to be substantiated by studies in the future. However, there is a strong beliefs by the local people that the cave is decorated with colorful paintings.

If anything, the only remarkable aspect of this cave, its sheer size and the presence of a hot spot on one side of the caves wall and a cold one on the other.

Laga-Oda Cave

Laga-oda ancient cave is located some 38 kilo meters away from Dire Dawa in the Guninfeta Peasants Association to the southwest. Three caves know locally by the names Gada-Kataba, Goda-Okotae, and Gada-Bttu are found close to this cave. Gada-kataba that literally means a cave with written records is not a cave but a rock shelter having two layers.

The number of rock paintings in lega oda is about 600 (Cervicek 1971). Apart from the paintings, there are also written records on the wall.

Drawing upon the findings of the Middle and Later Stone Age, the occupation of Porc Epic and Laga-Oda had been dated back to 7700bp and 15500bp respectively, while the paintings at both sites could be dated to around 5000bp (Clark and etal 1984, Brandt 1986, Degefa 1996). This undoubtedly indicates that the Dire Dawa environ has been inhabited, even if intermittently, since the Middle Stone Age.

Goda-Ajewa Cave

This cave is located in Awale Kebele Peasants Association, 28 kilo meters from Dire Dawa. Like the other caves found around Dire Dawa, this cave possess paintings with different colors and style depicting different object and writings.

Goda ajawa cave is specifically located on the top of a hill, a hill on which the nearby residents farm and cultivate many types of vegetables. On the way to the cave, it is quite possible to stop by and have a good view of the locals and the whole surrounding.

Tour itineray to Dire Dawa with FANOS Ethiopia Tours http://www.fanosethiopiatours.com/index.php/9-days-to-babile-elephant-sanctuary


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