|A Dire Dawa square|
OK, it's back to the café table. And muggins now has a new Deep Throat, an Ethiopian who has plonked himself down and informs me on the highest authority and deepest anonymous background that the flags flapping from the grey locomotive in the centre of the roundabout are indeed beer adverts and not part of an anti-AIDS campaign; they're for St. George beer. Meanwhile the shoeshine boys are taking customers' shoes to a little corner where they shine them; one little kid is using an awl and thread to do some sophisticated repairs.
|St Michael's church|
There's a rival station cafe across the square where tea at 12 US cents costs 4 cents more; but it has a pretty trellis with bright yellow-breasted little birds hopping on the branches. Each cafe seems to have its regular set of clients. This is indeed Jorge Amado-type territory with all its tales of provincial intrigue.
We're Gonna Rock Around The Clock Tonight
One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock... A visit to Ethiopian Airlines office in Dire Dawa produces a little surprise. The plane will be leaving at 8 instead of 5.20. Now this is confusing because it could mean two things; Ethiopians generally give you the time according to their clock, by which counting begins at 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening. Hence they say 2 o'clock for our 8 o'clock, 6 o'clock for our noon etc. So the lady's announcement of muggins' flight change could mean an earlier departure at 2 p.m. But the Ethiopian beauty clarifies that she’s using the western clock; this means arrival in Addis at 2100.
|Dire Dawa's flowering streets|
Some Corner Of A Foreign Field That Is Forever England
With hours on my hands, it's time for another walkabout. Down the road past the station square, past the mauve, red and yellow flowering trees, past a long wall of anti-AIDS murals (including one of a whore-like woman handing what could be a packet of condoms to a man sitting on a bed, his trousers coming down - and a real life beggar lying in the dust on the pavement beneath it), past the turn-off to the airport, lies one more of those little corners of England - a British war cemetery in a foreign land. Unlike many, this one is no manicured grassy oasis, but a small pebbled yard with 80 graves in rows. Virtually none is British; there are inscriptions in Arabic script, very non-English names from the King's African Rifles, Gold Coast Regiment, East African Rifles, some with crosses, some without – Africans fighting in the name of a far away empire against the Eye-Ties who had invaded Ethiopia, the only part of sub-Saharan Africa not to be colonised. Only two names are non-African, from South Africa.
|British war cemetery|
|Start of the AIDS murals|
|Sleeping beggar beneath AIDS mural|
|Dire Dawa's Thinker passes AIDS murals|
|The mural continues|
|The mistaken AIDS flags in station square|
|Shoeshine boys in station square|
|Dire Dawa's flowering squares|