Mashhad is the second most populous city in Iran and capital of Razavi Khorasan Province. It is located in the northeast of the country, close to the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Its population was 2,749,374 at the 2011 census and its built-up area was home to 2,782,976 inhabitants including Mashhad Taman and Torqabeh cities. It was a major oasis along the ancient Silk Road connecting with Merv in the East.
The city is most famous and revered for housing the tomb of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. Every year, millions of pilgrims visit the Imam Reza shrine and pay their tributes to Imam Reza. The Abbasid caliphate Harun al-Rashid is also buried within the shrine.
Mashhad is also known as the city of Ferdowsi, the Iranian poet of Shahnameh, which is considered to be the national epic of Iran. The city is the hometown of some of the most significant Iranian literary figures and artists such as Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, the famous contemporary poet. Ferdowsi and Akhavan Sales are both buried in Tus, an ancient city that is considered to be the main origin of the current city of Mashhad.
Imam Reza Shrine Complex
The complex is a city in itself and visitors are frisked by security at all gates. Women must observe shrine decorum and cover themselves with the chador, without which they will not be permitted to enter the complex. Apart from its religious significance, the complex is an architectural masterpiece decorated with intricate tiles, calligraphy, beautiful courtyards and porches. The complex also houses a museum, library and the very beautiful Masjid-e-Gohar Shaad of the Timurid period. Photography is not permitted within the complex.
The large structure with a blue dome was built to honor one of the apostles of the Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W). One of the most important sites for Muslim tourists it is frequented by pilgrims and local Iranian families and can get quite crowded on public holidays.
Mosques and Mausoleums
The 15th century 72 Martyrs Mosque located just outside the city is one of the many mosques in Mashhad. The Nadir (Nader) Shah Mosque and mausoleum is a monument dedicated to the founder of the Afshar dynasty, who was responsible for the development of Mashhad city and expansion of the Imam Reza Shrine complex. Ferdosi Park and mausoleum and Gombade Sabz mausoleum are some other mosques in the city.
Gardens and Pilgrim Sites in Neishabur
Neishabur, a two hour drive away from Mashhad is a picturesque location dotted with beautiful gardens which are ideal for an evening visit or an overnight camp. The area has complexes that house relics of Imam Reza (A.S).
Summer resorts at Torogh, Torghabeh, Aklomod, Zoshk and Shandiz are excellent weekend getaways.