The international convention for catching a flight works.
You turn up directly outside the terminal in your car/bus/taxi, wander into a big hall, find your check in desk, helpfully assisted by a huge sign with the name of your airline above it, you hand over your documents, receive a boarding pass in return, amble off for some minor hassle with scanners etc, sit in a bare lounge for half an hour, hop on your plane and you're off.
Here's how Dire Dawa does it: (By the way, nothing in this post is meant to be criticism of any kind, just an observations)
The bajaji/taxi drops you off at the edge of some beautifully manicured grounds (especially impressive since you're in the middle of a desert) where you show some Feds/Army your passport and ticket (PRINT that paperless reservation...!) you walk about half a mile to the terminal entrance where yet again you show your passport and ticket, quick X ray/scanner and you're in the main building.
No visible check in desks!
A large hall with a little cafe at local prices and a table with 'Customs' handwritten above it.
Beyond 'Customs' is a room with some seats and....a check in desk!
Just the one but it seems there are only the two flights this afternoon. Addis Ababa and Djibouti.
I take a seat in the cafe and leech their electricity to work on Countess Chlamydia's exploits. She's currently charging around Addis Ababa with Chief Sgnt Dawit Wokolo of the Ethiopian Federal Police trying to avenge her boyfriend's murder back in Birmingham. With two hours until the flight leaves, my Western airport trained brain kicks in and I wander over to 'Check in'
Everyone is putting their luggage in a line opposite the empty desk and then abandoning it.
An old man in a boiler suit is keeping watch on the door.
The other passengers are mostly local with a smattering of Chinese and two other Ferrangi, a huge nosed Ronnie Wood lookalike and a younger woman floating around in half a traditional white Oromo dress with beads around her neck. I like to meet the locals admittedly but I don't try to BE the locals!
With half an hour until the flight was supposedly due to depart, Boiler Suit started picking up the bags and shouting in Amharic. Seems the procedure is he picks your bag up, you wander over, take it off him and check in, no boarding pass though!
Once everyone had checked their bags in we sat for another half hour before on some unseen cue everyone got up and disappeared behind a screen. Either a pee break (Ethiopian bus experience has told me they don't like to piss alone) or Security has opened.
It was security.
I got told off for triggering the machine thanks to a one birr coin in my pocket.
Everyone piled into a hallway where out in the garden er I mean runway a plane sat.
Another unseen cue and everyone charged forward and out towards the aircraft.
Half the passengers returned a few minutes later and took their seats, muttering about Djibouti.
Finally Djibouti took off paving the way for a tiny little Ethiopian Airways prop plane to wheel into view.
The remaining passengers stampeded towards it shrieking. A few local women ululated and someone started shoulder dancing.
I love this country but it baffles me.