“The Queen of the Desert” is what many prefer to call the city. It is located 445Km east of Addis Abeba. Dire Dawa was founded in 1902, when the railroad from Djibouti reached the area. Its growth has resulted largely from trade brought by the railroad. The city is home to most of the ethnic groups found in the country. Thus, it is a city of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
Owing to its diversity nearly all people are able to speak two or more local languages. Amharic is used as working language while Oromigna and Somali are among widely spoken local languages. Foreign languages as Arabic, French and English are also used in some parts of the city. Dire Dawa lies in the eastern part of the nation, on the Dechatu River, at the foot of a ring of cliffs that has been described as “somewhat like a cluster of tea leaves in the bottom of a slop basin.” Cave paintings and stone monuments are located near Dire Dawa to the east. The first hotel established in Dire Dawa is Continental Hotel, established in the same year with Taitu Hotel.
Ethiopian Airlines flies daily. Bus and minibus services are also available, including Selam Bus and Sky Bus coaches. The old part of the town is made of twisting streets and Arab-style houses with everpresent Somali women in black velvet, their faces covered with purple veils. The old city (Magala) is on the south bank of the river, and the new city (Kezira) on the north. TheNew Quarter presents quite a contrast, with its tree-shaded boulevards, trim modern houses, factories, new hotels, and a fine hospital. Baqlawa, Mushabak and Hilwa are local sweets not to be missed while visiting the city.