Dire Dawa is one of two chartered cities (astedader akabibi) in Ethiopia
(the other being the capital, Addis Ababa
). This chartered city is divided administratively into two woredas, the city proper and the non-urban woreda of Gurgura. The city is an industrial centre, home to several markets and the Aba Tenna Dejazmach Yilma International Airport
. Haramaya University is 40 kilometers away from the city. Dire Dawa was founded in 1902 after the Addis Ababa - Djibouti
Railway reached the area. The railroad could not reach the city of Harar
at its higher elevation, so Dire Dawa was built nearby. This led to Dire Dawa becoming an important center of trade between the port of Djibouti and the capital city, Addis Ababa.Dire Dawa's first governor was Ato Mersha Nahu Senay who also represented Emperor Menilek at the inauguration ceremony of the Djibouti-Ethiopia railway as it reached the area, according to Dr. Richard Pankhurst and historian Shiferaw Bekele. Ato Mersha was instrumental in the founding and early development of the city, including the establishment of the Djibouti-Dire Dawa railway that began in 1897 and ended in 1902.