The fourth-most populous city in Ethiopia, Dire Dawa (ድሬ ዳዋ) usually elicits strong reactions. Its colourful storefronts, tree-lined streets, neat squares and foreign influence (look for Arab, French, Italian and Greek styles in some of the architecture and design) are a refreshing change from the filthy disorder and lack of character in most Ethiopian towns. Others just consider it a more vibrant version of tedium.
Dire Dawa is made up of two distinct settlements, divided by the trash-strewn Dechatu Wadi (seasonal river). Lying to the north and west is the European-influenced ‘new town’, known as Kezira. To the east is the more colourful ‘old town’, known as Megala, which has a distinctly Muslim (and, coincidentally, a slightly Mexican) feel.