"Mashahd" Mashhad by omidamini

Mashhad Travel Guide: 87 reviews and 177 photos


Mashhad (Persian: مشهد, literally the place of martyrdom) is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia world. It is located 850 kilometers (500 miles) east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its population was 2,427,316 at the 2006 population census.[1]

Now Mashhad is notably known as the resting place of the Imam Reza (Ali ibn Musa al-Rida). A shrine was later built there to commemorate the Imam, which in turn gave rise to increasing demographic development.

Mashad is also known as the city of Ferdowsi the great Persian poet of Shahnameh which is considered to be the Persian national epic.
The city is located at 36.20º latitude and 59.35º east longitude, in the valley of the Kashaf River near Turkmenistan, between the two mountain ranges of Binalood and Hezar-masjed. The city benefits from the proximity of the mountains, having very cold winters, pleasant springs, mild summers, and beautiful autumns. It is only about 250 km (156 miles) from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

The city is the administrative centre of Mashhad County (or the shahrestan of Mashhad) as well as the somewhat smaller district (bakhsh) of Mashhad. The city itself, excluding parts of the surrounding bakhsh and shahrestan, is divided into 13 smaller administrative units, with a total population of almost 2,5 million.

Mashhad consists mainly of people of Iranian descent. There are also over 20 million pilgrims who visit the city every year.

History and notable events

At the beginning of the 9th century (3th century AH) Mashhad was a small village called Sanabad situated 24km away from Tus. There was a summer palace of "Hamid ibn Qahtabi", the governor of Khorasan. In 808 when Harun al-Rashid, Abbasid caliph, was passing through there to settle down the insurrection of "Rafi ibn Leith" in Transoxania, he became ill and died. He was buried under the palace of Hamid ibn Qahtabi. Several years later in 818 Imam Reza was martyred by Al-Ma'mun and was buried beside the grave of Harun. [3]

After this event this place was called as Mashhad al-Rida (the place of martyrdom of Ali al-Rida). Shias started visiting there for pilgrimage of his grave. By the end of the 9th century a dome was built on the grave and many buildings and Bazaars sprang up around it. During more than a millennium it has been devastated and reconstructed several times. [4]

It was not considered a great city until Mongol raids in 1220 which caused the destruction of many large cities in the Greater Khorasan territories, leaving Mashhad relatively intact. Thus the survivors of the massacres migrated to Mashhad.[5] When the famous world traveller Ibn Battuta visited the town in 1333, he reported that it was a large town with abundant fruit trees, streams and mills. A great dome of elegant construction surmounts the noble mausoleum, the walls being decorated with colored tiles.[2]

Later on, during the Shahrokh era, it became one of the main cities of the Timurid dynasty. In 1418 his wife Goharshad funded the construction of an outstanding mosque beside the shrine, which is known as Goharshad Mosque.[5] The mosque remains relatively intact to this date, its great size an indicator to the status the city held in the 15th century.

Shah Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty, conquered Mashhad after the death of Husayn Bayqarah and the decline of the Timurid dynasty. Mashhad was later captured by the Uzbeks during the reign of Shah Abbas I, only to be retaken by the Shah Abbas in the year of 1597 after a long and severe struggle, defeating the Uzbeks in a great battle near Herat as well as managing to drive them beyond the Oxus River.

Shah Abbas I wanted to encourage Iranians to go to Mashhad for pilgrimage. he himself is known to have walked from Isfahan to Mashhad. During the Safavid era Mashhad gained even more religious recognition, becoming the most important city of the Greater Khorasan as several Madrasah and other structures were built beside the shrine of the Imam Reza.

Besides its religious significance, Mashhad has played an important political role as well. It saw its greatest glory under Nadir Shah, ruler of Iran from 1736 to 1747 and also a great benefactor of the shrine of the Imam Reza, making the city his capital. It remained the capital of the Afsharid dynasty until Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar conquered the then larger region of Khorasan in 1796.

In 1912, the sanctuary of the Imam Reza was bombed by the Russian forces, causing widespread and persisting resentment in the Shiite Muslim world.


Long a center of secular as well as of religious learning, Mashhad has been a center for the arts and for the sciences. The large Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, named after the great Iranian poet, is located here. The Madrassa of Ayatollah Al-Khoei, originally built in the seventeenth century and recently replaced with modern facilities, is the city's foremost traditional centre for religious learning. The Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, founded in 1984, stands at the centre of town, within the shrine complex. The prestige of traditional religious education at Mashhad attracts students, known as talaban, internationally.

Mashhad is also home to one of the oldest libraries of the Middle-East called the Central Library of Astan-e Quds Razavi with a history of over six centuries. The Astan-e Quds Razavi Museum, which is part of the Astan-e Quds Razavi Complex, is home to over 70,000 rare manuscripts from various historical eras. There are some six million historical documents in the foundation's central library.

In 1569 (977 H), 'Imad al-Din Mas'ud Shirazi, a physician at the Mashhad hospital, wrote the earliest Islamic treatise on syphilis, one influenced by European medical thought. Kashmar rug is a type of Persian rug indigenous to this region.

  • Intro Updated May 11, 2009
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Reviews (66)

Comments (11)

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jun 25, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    So many interesting facts and information here. I enjoyed the lovely tour! Nice page and Very Happy Birthday Omid!!

  • mvtouring's Profile Photo
    Jul 10, 2010 at 4:31 AM

    You have really given travellers fantastic info here thanks for sharing ;-)

  • Roadquill's Profile Photo
    Mar 29, 2010 at 2:09 AM

    Great info about Mashhad, and your daughter is a sweetheart. Happy travels, karl

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jul 21, 2009 at 3:26 AM

    Hello, my friend! Wonderful destination! I heard about Ferdowsi ...

  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo
    May 10, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    Virani looks nice and this place has so much history - I never even heard of the Sasanians until I read your pages..I have an Iranian uncle and hopefully he'll bring me to Iran someday. That Shah bathroom looks awesome! Norman :)

  • joiwatani's Profile Photo
    May 10, 2009 at 5:46 AM

    So much culture here but not so popular for tourists, it seems like. I love to come visit this place one day.

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2008 at 1:32 AM

    I didn't have time to visit Mashad when I was in Iran, but one day I want to come back and then Mashad is defenitly on my list.

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo
    Dec 19, 2007 at 12:41 PM

    Far east of Iran! Mashad and the silk road will on my route when I will come back to Iran, one day! Thanks for the bazar and museum info Omid.

  • reezal's Profile Photo
    Nov 24, 2007 at 4:34 AM

    Great info on bazaar..salam.

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Oct 23, 2007 at 7:40 AM

    Interesting pages; I did especially look at the monument and museum tips as I am an amateur of Persian art.


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