Under-the-radar Ethiopian city Dire Dawa draws tourists with cosmopolitan architecture and bustling markets

Lying far to Ethiopia’s east, near the border with Somaliland and Somalia, and surrounded by dusty plains and low hills, Dire Dawa’s slow-burn delights are easily overlooked.

Nearby Harar, with its ancient walled inner sanctum and hyena men, hogs the limelight – not entirely unjustifi­ably – and most visitors immediately return to Addis Ababa, the national capital, 500km to the west. What they are missing is a surpri­sing mix of Arab, French, Italian and Greek architecture, a rare international mishmash in the only African country that was never fully colonised.

The city’s vibrant­ shopfronts and tree-lined thoroughfares make Dire Dawa a natural refuge from the often frantic nature of getting around in Ethiopia, as well as the chaotic hustle and bustle that can dent the morale of travellers in some of the country’s other towns… READ MORE