Dire Dawa is a chartered city of around 350,000 inhabitants, 55 kilometres north west of Harar. It is a commercial and industrial centre located on the Addis Ababa - Djibouti railroad: there are railroad workshops in the city, a meat processing factory, and vegetable oil, textiles, and cement are also produced here. Dire Dawa was founded in 1902 when the railroad from Djibouti reached the area, and its growth has resulted largely from trade brought by the railroad.
The city lies on the banks of the Dechatu River, often dry, although floods are quite common in the rainy season, from June to September. A devastating flood in August 2006 killed about 200 people and did huge damage.