Dire Dawa, which born in Dec 24 1902 following the establishment of Ethio-Djibouti Rail way line is the birth place of modern EthiopianTrade,Investment ,Technology and of course various superb industries. The manifold interactions between the diverse nation and nationalities of Ethiopia and foreign national from Africa, Europe, Asia and others enable the town to become symbol of cross-cultural understanding; Likewise one can experience architecture and life style of people from every corner of the world in a very small setting.

Today’s the town is serving as trade, investment, service and industrial center of Eastern Ethiopia.  Owing to its strategic location and its status as eastern Ethiopian trade, Industry, investment and service center Dire Dawa is the focal point of a whole destination cluster of EER the Extended East Route which covers 3000 kms. in three States, Ethiopia, former Somaliland and Djibouti and, within Ethiopia parts of five Regional States, Dire Dawa, Harari, Oromia, Afar and Somali..I.e. tourist can able to undertake hub and spoke tours: tours which utilize a central destination with side trips of varying length to nearby destinations. All the above fact made Dire Dawa among nerve center Ethiopia’s tourism development which aimed to make the country among top five African tourism destinations in next 5 years.

 So am glad to welcome dear visitors on behalf of Dire Dawa administration

I hope your stay will be sensational 

Mayor Hased Ziyad

 The establishment of Ethio-Djibouti Rail way line is led foundation for today’s Dire Dawa.

Dire Dawa has been a melting pot of indigenous and foreign cultures since its birth [Dec 24 1902]. It is a city that has evolved and developed a new culture of tolerance and respect that transcends any cultural, creed, ethnic, color, or national barriers.

The Dire dawa administration covers a rich and diverse area located at the interface between the arid the fertile hararghe highlands in eastern Ethiopia. Likewise Dire Dawa is; focal point for the nation’s growing import-export trade and tourism destination bunch of [Eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland].similarly several federal institutions has their branch offices in Dire Dawa at Eastern Regional level and lastly the City has been selected to serve as one of the two federal industrial zones, dry port, as transshipment station, and other. The outstanding tourist attraction mentioned in this guide book and the above favorable condition make Dire Dawa an important tourist Destination 

 Am pleased to welcome dear visitors on behalf of Dire Dawa     administration Trade, Industry and Investment bureau               

I hope your stay will be exciting 

Vice Mayor Hasan Tahir

General information


Absolute between 9º27N and   9 º49 S longitude and Between49 38 E and 42 19 W latitude

 Relatives   the plain Dire Dawa is surrounded by hill 100 to 250 meters high stretching mostly  from east to west

Distance; the town found at 515 km from Addis Ababa  313km     from Djibouti  55km from Harar

Time; EAT [UTC+3] CODE [251-25]

Land size   the total land size of the administration is 1288 km, of which nearly 97.73% accounts for the land size of the rural areas, while the remaining 2.27% covers the land size of the urban areas of the administration.


The administration shares boundaries with the Oromia national regional state in the south and southeast and the Somali national regional state in the north, east, and west.

Entry point; the administration has one international entry point at dawale


The altitude of the land in Dire Dawa administration is b/n 960-2,500meters.


The climate of the administration is basically warm, and dry with low level of precipitation.

Rain fall

The administration has bimodal rain season, and the average annual rainfall is 604 millimeters.


The annual maximum and minimum air temperature of the administration are 31.4 c and 18.2 c respectively.

Population size

The total population of the administration at present is estimated to be 342, 827, out of which the size of the population residing in the urban areas of the administration is said to be 232,854 (67.5%) of the

total population while the number of the rural population of the administration is estimated to be about 109,973(32.5%) of the total

Administration; Dire Dawa Administration is composed of 9 urban and 38 rural Kebeles and headed by elected mayor. Dire Dawa is the seat of the administration.

Economy; Trade, industry &service are the main economic activities of a town while agriculture take the iron share in rural part of the administration

Food and clothing

Injrera wich made from teff, grain and sorghum presented along fasting and non-fasting wot/source    is the stable food of the administration both in the town and rural part. Tourist can easily find variety of international/foreign dishes from some star category hotel/specialty restaurant found in the town,however dire dawa is the only city of Ethiopia in which tourist can enjoy unique  sweet food such as Musheback ,Baklawa,Halawa and so on. Traditional dress is seen in the rural parts where western style of wearing is common in the town especially for the Christian society.

What to wear

Dire Dawa has semi dessert climate so tourist should wear light clothes both in the town and rural part of the administration.

Business hours

Banks, post office, tele communication office is open from

Admission fee



Road; the administration is good in road network from total of 622 km Asphalt 42.5 Gravel 228.2 paved 34.2  coble stone 20.547 rural road 296.6


Digital, semi-automatic and wireless telephone, internet and postal service is available in the administration

Electronic; there is an FM and TV station that broad cast in Amharic, Oromiffa and Somali language

Print media; Melikta dire and dire magazine   are some of permanent print media

Transportation; visitor can travelled to the region by vehicle, rail and airplane

Ethnic composition of the population:-

The present residents of Dire Dawa city consist of descendents of people who came not only from nearly all the nationalities, and peoples in Ethiopia, but also from a number of European, Asian, Mid-eastern, and African countries. While the population of the rural areas of the administration, is predominantly composed of Oromo   and   Somalis.


Amharic is the official working language of the administration. Oromiffa and Somali languages are widely spoken local languages. English, French, and Arabic languages are widely used foreign language


History of Dire Dawa Administration

  1. The region of Dire Dawa through the history of Ethiopia

Cosmas, a traveler of the 6th century A.D, copied a Greek inscription which was carved on a throne at Adulis. This inscription indicates the power of Axum in the first centuries A.D The following quotation is an extract from that inscription.

“I next brought to sub mission a barbarous race spread over wide waterless plains in the interior of the frankincense country”8…. According to this passage the kingdom of Axum was to be extended up to interior of the “frankincense country. The frankincense country meant, at that time, the land inhabited today by the Somali people. The chronicles of Amde Seyon (1314-1344) mention a place which is located twenty Kilometers from Dire Dawa, on the road to Harar. “From there he set out and went away, leaving his troops hidden at the foot of a mountain. And when the king was on his journey there came besides, some people today believe that the Harala region was inhabited by very strong giant men were famous for fighting, and for building stone houses. More over middle Stone Age sites, Harala village, caravan town of Qal’ad, indicates that the region has been inhabited by human being since pre –historic period.

B)The Birth of Dire Dawa

Until the late 19th century, Dire Dawa was just a vast plain inhabited by pastoralist. People from the plateaus of Harar used to come to graze their cattle. Some small villages existed on the hills around the plain.

The idea of constructing a railway to link the Ethiopian capital with the coast appears to have been first conceived by Menelik’s Swiss adviser, Alfred Ilg, who had first arrived in Ethiopia in 1877.

The plain was covered with mimosa trees and the forest was full of wild animals. Jean Duchesne, a French traveler, went through the region in January, 1902. He wrote that wild animals were so numerous that they were around him like farm animal.

The French surveyors had to find a convenient place for locating their new station. To build a railway station and repair shops they would need:

  1. Enough water for the steam engines, workshops and workers’ houses.
  2. A large track of flat space for the repair shops.
  3. A location approximately half-way between Djibouti and Addis Ababa.
  4. Land easily available.

Dire Dawa fulfilled these conditions. It offered a large, flat area centrally located between Addis Ababa and Djibouti with plenty of water. Menelik gave Strip of land 1000 meters wide from the frontier of French Somaliland to Dire Dawa. Thus, there was enough space on which to build the important station.

On Dec 23 1902 the first train reached Addis Harar .For a very short time there was an attempt to name the new settlement Addis Harar, but did not last long. Thus Dire Dawa was born; environmental condition as well as the choice of French engineers explained the location of the town. Its growth would depend on economic, commercial and political factors.

The Growth of the town

Before Italian occupation

When the railway reached dire Dawa in December, 1902, few if any, accommodations were available. While sheds were being built for repair shops, workers live in railway carriages and tents. It took about a year to give Dire Dawa the aspect of an urban centre. For practical reasons of planning, building and supplying their hoses, engineers and skilled workers were settled near the workshops on the western part of what is known today as “Gazira.” At the same time many unskilled day labourers or “coolies,” who were needed for building purposes, settled nearby on, the right bank of the Dechatu River. Very soon, Arab and Indian traders started buying and selling good. The sector of the town known as, Magala grew rapidly.

Because most of the engineers and skilled workers of the railway company were Europeans (mainly French, Italians and Greeks) Gazira was exclusively inhabited by Europeans Magala, which means town in somali, was settled by non-Europeans. Thus, right from the beginning, Dire Dawa was demographically and functionally segregated into two district sectors.

Gazira on, the left bank of the river Dechatu, was planned by the railway engineers to comprise wide straight streets and large single houses surrounded by gardens. Magala, on the right bank

of the river, grew without any plan along the roads leading to the river which supplied the town with water (Laga Harret street) and the track to Harar (Andegna Menged street). Magala became the commercial sector of the town.

The distinction of the two sectors of the town is so obvious today, which one may conclude that racial segregation was practiced in Dire Dawa by the railway company. It seems that practical circumstances, as well as wealth and social valued, played a great role in the creation of the two sectors. Even today, the company does not provide dwelling facilities for every railway worker. The employees of the company have to reach a certain level of skill to be eligible for a house. It seems that this custom was practiced at the beginning of the town.

Lastly, the land from the railway in stations to the river bed was part of the property ceded by Menelik to the company for 99 years. Consequently at the beginning, only railway workers could live in Gazira.

This fact did not hold true very long. The land was too big for the relatively small number of engineers and skilled labourers. The company began to rent or give away some parts of its land. Ato Marsha the governor of town secured for the government the height where the palace is now located because most of the railway dwelling were on the western side. Some people rented land from the company. They were mainly foreigner side. Some people rented land from Armenians. Although Ethiopians could live in Gazira, very few were able to afford it. Thus practically speaking, Gazira remained the European sector of the town.

The town grew rapidly as commerce began to flourish. As early as 1903,skimner, the head of the first American mission to the king of Ethiopia, wrote, “……” we had crossed the  Ethiopian frontier some time before reaching Dire Dawa  but, at the town named, we first encountered the outward and visible sign of orderly administration …… It was too dark to see the avoidances of the rapid growth and prosperity of this queen city of the desert created within twelve months a “boom city” as we should say in America.WOW Don’t forget Barrack Obama previous senator and today’s president of America also also the first black senator which visit Ethiopia; soon become a president.

UntitledddIn 1908 the first school was opened to everybody in town. The same year the St, Laser printing press was transferred from Harar to Dire Dawa. De Castro described Dire Dawa as being a well-planned city worth visiting.

What were the reasons which contributed to the rapid growth of the town?

First Dire Dawa, because the administrative centre of the region, had an important customs office. The governor of the region transported his office from Gildessa to Dire Dawa.

Second, because of financial difficulties the railway tracks terminated in Dire Dawa for some years. Dire Dawa was therefore a place where goods for exportation were converging from all over country. In 1917, when the railway track reached Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa lost some of its commercial importance.

Third, in 1916 disorders in the town of Harar threaded many forge merchants. Most of them came for protection.

As more Armenian and Greek merchants came to Dire Dawa trade Flourished. From that time on wards Dire Dawa has been a great commercial centre. Between 1922 and 1930 some urban services were added and improved. Electricity was introduced. School and transport facilities were increased. In 1922 a government school, and in1925 a vocational school were established. In 1928 the road to Harar was built, while in 1929 the first car was brought to the town, Although more services were made available to the population of the town, Dire Dawa did not increases in size very much. The “boom city” of the beginning had because a quiet urban canter. The great turning point in the development of the town was the Italian occupation.

As soon as Dire Dawa was found, Ato Marsha, the governor of Gildessa, came to Dire Dawa to establish his centre where the palace is situated today. There has always been a governor in Dire Dawa ever

Since. While Ato Marsha represented the Ethiopian government in official matters, his day by day role was mainly figurative in Gazira.

The French influence was so great there that the rail way company administered kazira. Moreover this influence spread to the rest of the town. French was the lingua franca of the town. French currencies were accepted there .French holidays were observed. if a difficulty rose in gazira the affair was referred to French consul .the water service and the road  were taken care of by the rail way company .thus up to 1926, Dire Dawa was practically a ˝French town“.

In1926 an agreement was passed between the rail Way Company and Ethiopian government, where by the company handed over to the municipality all the area of Dire Dawa which is not necessary for the company. From that time on the Ethiopian government took active role in the administration of the whole town. This state of affair lasted up to 1936 when the Italian took over the town.

Italian occupation [1936-1941]

On May 9, 1936 the Italian occupation force entered Dire Dawa .the occupation began smoothly and the population did not react. Small detachment of French army came to Dire Dawa to protect French interest, but they left Dire Dawa as soon as the rail way authorities assured the safety of the company.     During Italian occupation the town grew considerably .the Italian drew master plan for the town and they did much to implement it. Residential areas were built such as campo Greco, Addis ketema Laga hare and No One .Having the vision of making Dire Dawa small Rome they built new industries such as cement and cotton factories .transportation facilities were greatly improved .road to Harar, Addis Ababa and Asmara  were bettered so that Mogadishu ,Addis Ababa and Asmara were linked to Dire Dawa by bus service. The air port, started just before the war, was completed, so that regular air services were established between different towns. The rail way run by French people until 1939 when Italy declared war on France was highly used by Italian army. In 1938 some 3500 foreigners lived in the town.

After Italian occupation

In March 1941 the British army captured the town. Before going the Italian administration tried to destroy the town but attempt failed as the Italian soldier disconnected the electrical system which was meant to start the catastrophe.

During British   administration the town did not change, on the contrary, with the departure of many foreigners, commercial activates decreased. It took some time for the industrial plants to start again.

By 1946, the French workers were back in order to run the railway again, and the Ethiopians were ready to run the government machinery. For that time until today, there has been great development. A food industry such as an oil factory, a floor mill, a meat production was doubled and a paint factory has recently been opened.

Commercial activities have increased too. Vegetables and chat have been added to the exportation of coffee, pulses and cereals. Educational, Health, transportation and urban services have improved enormously. A master plan drawn in 1967 is becoming a reality.

The population of the administration

Dire Dawa is a metropolitan where diverse nations and nationalities of Ethiopia and foreign national coexist peacefully. Among locals Oromo Somali Harari and Amhara are dominant while Arabs Indians and turkey do same among foreign national. The population of the administration was 341, 834 according to 1999 census and the growth rate was 2.5%, from total population233, 224[67.93%] live in urban while 108, 610[32.07%] live in rural areas .likewise male and females account for 171,461and 170,373 respectively.

Owing to its diversity nearly all people are able to speak two or more local language. Amharic is used as working language while Oromiffa, Somali are among widely spoken local language .Foreign language like Arabic, French and English are also used some parts of the city. According 1999 census Islam and Christianity are the dominant religion practiced in the administration. the presence of friendly environment like similarity in life style ,closeness and friendship among the people of the administration create unique combination of tradition that transcends any cultural and language barriers ,this make the administration a place where departing from it is very difficult  than travelling to it . More over different musician sing a song to praise the city’s people from its establishment to present day

Photo which shows diversity of Dire Dawa city

Untitled                    Untitledd