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Mashhad ( , literally the place of martyrdom) is one of the largest cities in Iranmarker and one of the holiest cities in the Shia world. It is located east of Tehranmarker, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Provincemarker close to the borders of Afghanistanmarker and Turkmenistanmarker. Its population was 2,427,316 at the 2006 population census.

Now Mashhad is notably known as the resting place of the Imam Reza. 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.

Geography and demographics

The city is located at 36.20º latitude and 59.35º east longitude, in the valley of the Kashaf River near Turkmenistanmarker, 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 Ashgabatmarker, Turkmenistanmarker.

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 (3rd century AH) Mashhad was a small village called Sanabad situated 24 km 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 Ali al-Reza was martyred by Al-Ma'mun and was buried beside the grave of Harun.

After this event this place was called as Mashhad al-Rida (the place of martyrdom of Ali al-Rida). Shias started visiting there for pilgrimagemarker 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.

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. 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.

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. 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 Heratmarker as well as managing to drive them beyond the Oxus Rivermarker.

Shah Abbas I wanted to encourage Iranians to go to Mashhad for pilgrimage. he himself is known to have walked from Isfahanmarker 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 Rezamarker.

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.

1935 Imam Reza shrine rebellion

In 1935 a backlash against the modernizing, anti-religious policies of Reza Shah erupted in the Mashed shrine. Responding to a cleric who denounced the Shah's heretical innovations, corruption and heavy consumer taxes, many bazaaris and villagers took refuge in the shrine, chanted slogans such as `The Shah is a new Yezid.` For four full days local police and army refused to violate the shrine and the standoff was ended whentroops from Azerbaijan arrived and broke into the shrine, killing dozens and injuring hundreds, and marking a final rupture between Shi'ite clergy and the Shah.

1994 Imam Reza shrine bombing

On June 20, 1994, an explosion from a bomb occurred in a prayer hall of the shrine of the Imam Rezamarker The bomb that killed at least 25 people on June 20 in Mashhad exploded at Ashura. Mehdi Nahvi, a member of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MKO), an Iraqi-based opposition group, claimed responsibility. The MKO stated that the bombing was carried out to commemorate the anniversary of the group's founding on June 20, 1981. Although government blamed the Mujahedin-e-Khalq in a TV show to avoid sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni , the Pakistani daily "News" of March 27, 1995 reported, “Pakistani investigators have identified a 24-year-old religious fanatic Abdul Shakoor residing in Lyari in Karachimarker, as an important Pakistanimarker associate of Ramzi Yousef. Abdul Shakoor had intimate contacts with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and was responsible for the June 20, 1994, massive bomb explosion at the shrine Imam Reza in Mashhad.”

Religious minorities

Though primarily a Muslim city, Mashhad has harbored a number of religious minorities over the centuries. Among these were Jews, who in 1839 were forcibly converted to Islam. However, in truth they lived a double life: outwardly they conformed to Islamic ways, and were known as "Jadid al-Islam" or "New Muslims," but secretly they preserved a Jewish identity and Jewish traditions.

There was a Jewish district in Jennat Street. Jennat Street where the most prestigious shopping centers of Mashhad located at the time and was one the most expensive places of Mashhad.

Current religious situation

Shrine of Imam Ali Reza in Mashad, Iran

Today the holy shrine and its museum hold one of the most extensive cultural and artistic treasuries of Iran, in particular manuscript books and paintings. Several important theological schools are associated with the shrine of the Eighth Imam.

The second largest holy city in the world, Mashhad attracts more than 20 million tourists and pilgrims every year, many of whom come to pay homage to the Imam Reza shrinemarker (the eighth Shi'ite Imam). It has been a magnet for travellers since medieval times.It is said that the rich go to Meccamarker but the poor journey to Mashhad. Thus, even as those who complete the pilgrimage to Mecca receive the title of Haji, those who make the pilgrimage to Mashhad – and especially to the Imam Reza shrine – are known as Mashtee, a term employed also of its inhabitants. It is thought that over 20 million Muslims a year make the pilgrimage to Mashhad.

Astan Quds Razavi


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.


Tous Museum
Mashhad's countryside
Apart from Imam Reza shrinemarker there is a number of beautiful large parks, the tombs of historical celebrities in nearby Tus and Neyshabourmarker, the tomb of Nadir Shah and Kooh Sangi park and Mellat Park that have modern attractions for children such as the biggest ferris wheel or fanfar ( ) in Iran and Koohestan Park-e-Shadi Complex that includes a zoo, where many wild animals are kept and which attracts many visitors to Mashhad. It is also home to the Mashhad Airbase (formerly Imam Reza airbase), jointly a military installation housing Mirage aircraft, and a civilian international airport.

Some points of interest lie outside the city: the tomb of Khajeh Morad, along the road to Tehran; the tombmarker of Khajeh Rabi' located 6 kilometers north of the city where there are some inscriptions by the renowned Safavid calligrapher Reza Abbasi; and the tomb of Khajeh Abasalt, a distance of 20 kilometers from Mashhad along the road to Neishaburmarker. (The three were all disciples of Imam Reza).

Among the other sights are the tomb of the great poet namedFerdowsi in Tus, 24 kilometers distance, and the summer resorts at Torghabehmarker, Torogh, Akhlamadmarker, Zoshk, and Shandiz.

The Shah Public Bath, built during the Safavid era in 1648, is an outstanding example of the architecture of that period. It was recently restored, and is to be turned into a museum.


Mashhad Urban Railway (under construction)


Mashhad is served by the Mashhad International Airportmarker which handles domestic flights to Iranian cities and international flights, mostly to neighboring, Arab countries.


The Mashhad Urban Railway Corporation (MURCO) is constructing a metro system for the city of Mashhad which includes four lines. The first phase (line) of the metro is expected to be finished by 2009-2010.


Mashhad is connected to three major rail lines: Tehranmarker-Mashhad, Mashhad-Bafgh (running south), and Mashhad-Sarakhsmarker at the border with Turkmenistanmarker. Some freight trains continue from Sarakhs towards Uzbekistanmarker and to Kazakhstanmarker, but have to change bogies because of the difference in Rail gauge. A rail line is being constructed off the Mashhad-Bafgh line to connect Mashhad to Heratmarker in Afghanistanmarker, but has not yet been completed and one is planned to connect to the Gorganmarker railhead and the port of Bandar Torkamanmarker on the Caspian Seamarker to the west. Passenger rail services are provided by the national company R.A.J.A. and all trains are operated by R.A.I., Rah-Ahan Iran, the national railway company.


The major shopping precincts are:

File:Almas-mashhad.JPG|Almas Shargh Shopping CenterFile:PromaSC.JPG|Proma HypermarketFile:KianCenter.jpg|Kian CenterFile:SaffMHD.JPG|Mashhad is the major trade center of saffron in Iran.File:Shandiz.JPG|Many beautiful handicraft products are sold in Shandiz and Torghabehmarker.File:IranianHandicrafts.JPG|Some Iranian Handicrafts (metalwork) in Torghabeh

Colleges and universities

Mashhad as capital of Persia and Independent Khorasan

The following Shahanshahs had Mashhad as their capital:

Kianid Dynasty
  • Malek Mahmoud Sistani 1722-1726
Afsharid dynasty Safavid Dynasty Autonomous Government of Khorasan

Famous people from Mashhad

Religious & Political figures & Martyrs
  • Shaykh Tusi, 385-460 A.H., prominent Persian scholar of the Shi'a Twelver Islamic belief
  • Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, born February 1201 in Tūs, Khorasan – 26 June 1274 in al-Kāżimiyyah near Baghdad, Persian of the Ismaili and subesquently Twelver Shī‘ah Islamic belief
  • Seyed Ali Khamenei, born 17 July 1939, Supreme Leader of Iran
  • Nizam al-Mulk, 1018 – 14 October 1092, celebrated Persian scholar and vizier of the Seljuq Empire
  • Baha' ad-Din al-`Amili, February 1547 - 30 August 1621, Iranian Muslim scholar, philosopher, architect, mathematician, astronomer and poet
  • Al-Hurr al-Aamili, Shia scholar and muhaddith
  • Mulla Hadi Sabzevari, 1797-1873, philosopher and poet
  • Al-Ghazali, 1058-1111, Islamic theologian, jurist, philosopher, cosmologist, psychologist and mystic of Persian origin
  • Ali al-Sistani, Born approximately August 4, 1930, Twelver Shi'a marja residing in Iraq since 1951
  • Mohammad-Kazem Khorasani, 1839–1911, Twelver Shi'a Marja, Persian (Iranian) politician, philosopher, reformer
  • Hossein Vahid Khorasani, born in 1924, Iranian Twelver Shi'a Marja
  • Morteza Motahhari, February 3, 1920 – May 1, 1979, Iranian scholar, cleric, University lecturer, and politician
  • Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, born January 27, 1958, former Vice President of Iran and a close associate of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami
  • Abu Muslim Khorasani, c. 700 - 755, Abu Muslim Abd al-Rahman ibn Muslim al-Khorasani, Abbasid general of Persian origin
  • Martyr Mahmoud Kaveh,
  • Al-Ghazali, born 1058 in Tūs and died 1111 in Tus, Islamic theologian, jurist, philosopher, cosmologist, physician, psychologist and mystic of Persian origin
  • Manouchehr Eghbal, born October 14, 1909 - November 25, 1977, a Prime Minister of Iran
  • Shah Rukh , August 20, 1377 - March 12, 1447, ruler of the eastern portion of the empire established by the Central Asian warlord Timur (Tamerlane)
  • Goharshad, Persian noble and wife of Shāh Rukh, the emperor of the Timurid Dynasty of Herāt
  • Nader Shah, November, 1688 or August 6, 1698 – June 19, 1747, founder of the Afsharid dynasty
  • Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, born January 27, 1958, in Mashhad, Iranian theologian, scholar, pro-democracy activist and chairman of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue
  • Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, born August 23, 1961 in Torghabeh, near Mashhad, the current Mayor of Tehran, Iran
  • Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi, lecturer, philosopher and political strategist and popular television personality in the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Hadi Khamenei, b. 1947, mid-ranking cleric who is a member of the reformist Association of Combatant Clerics
  • Seyed Hassan Firuzabadi, Current Islamic Republic Of Iran's Major General
  • Saeed Jalili, born 1965 in Mashhad, Iranian politician and the present secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council

Writers, Poets and Scientist
  • Ferdowsi, 935–1020 in Tus, a highly revered Persian poet
  • Abu-Mansur Daqiqi, 935/942-976/980
  • Abolfazl Beyhaqi, 995-1077, a Persian historian and author
  • Nasir Khusraw, 1004 - 1088, a Persian poet, philosopher, Isma'ili scholar and a traveler
  • Abusa'id Abolkhayr, December 7, 967 - January 12 , 1049 / Muharram ul Haram,1 ,357 - Sha'aban,4 ,440 AH, famous Persian Sufi who contributed extensively to the evolution of Sufi tradition
  • Anvari, 1126–1189, one of the greatest Persian poets
  • Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, 1928, Mashhad, Iran — 1990, Tehran, Iran, a prominent Persian poet
  • Mohammad-Taghi Bahar, November 6, 1884, Mashhad, Iran — April 22, 1951, Tehran, Iran,
  • Ebrahim Nabavi, born 1958 in Astara, Iran, prolific Iranian satirist, writer, diarist, and researcher
  • Ali Shariati, November 23, 1933 – 1977, highly influential Iranian revolutionary[1] and sociologist
  • Asadi Tusi, born: Tus, Iranian province of Khorasan - died: 1072 Tabriz, Iran, arguably the second most important Persian poet of Iranian national epics
  • Emad Khorasani,
  • Gholam Hosein Yousefi,
  • Abū Ja'far al-Khāzin, 900-971, Persian astronomer and mathematician from Khorasan
  • Abū al-Wafā' Būzjānī, 10 June 940 – 1 July 998, Persian mathematician and astronomer
  • Sharaf al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, 1135-1213, Persian mathematician and astronomer of the Islamic Golden Age (during the Middle Ages)
  • Geber, born c. 721 in Tus–died c. 815 in Kufa, prominent polymath: a chemist and alchemist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geologist, philosopher, physicist, and pharmacist and physician

  • Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, born September 23, 1940 in Mashhad, Iran, internationally and critically acclaimed Persian traditional singer, composer and Master (Ostad) of Persian music
  • Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, born May 21, 1975, renowned Persian classical music vocalist, as well as a Tombak and Kamancheh player
  • Kayvan Saket, Born in 1960 in Mashhad, Iran, Iranian composer, Radif-preserver, researcher, teacher, and excellent Tar and Setar instrumentalist and improvisor
  • Noureddin Zarrinkelk, born 1937 in Mashhad, Iran, renowned Iranian animator, concept artist, editor, graphic designer, illustrator, layout artist, photographer, script writer and sculptor
  • Reza Kianian, born July 17, 1951 in Mashhad, Iran, Iranian actor
  • Dariush Arjmand, born 1944 in Mashad, Iranian actor
  • Reza Attaran, born 31 March 1968 in Mashhad, Iranian actor and director
  • Hamed Behdad, born 17 November 1973 in Mashhad, Iran, Iranian actor
  • Mahdi Bemani Naeini, born November 3, 1968, Iranian film director, cinematographer, TV cameraman and photographer
  • Rafi Pitts, born 1967 in Mashad, Iran, internationally acclaimed Iranian film director
  • Iran Darroudi, born September 2, 1936 in Mashhad, Iranian artist
  • Mohsen Namjoo, born in 1976, Iranian singer-songwriter, author, musician, and setar player
  • Mitra Hajjar, born February 4, 1977, Iranian actress
  • Ovanes Ohanian, - 1961 Tehran, Armenian-Iranian filmmaker who established the first film school in Iran

  • Abū al-Wafā' al-Būzjānī, born 10 June 940 - died 1 July 998, Persian mathematician and astronomer
  • Anousheh Ansari, born 12 September 1966, the Iranian-American co-founder and chairman of Prodea Systems, Inc and a spaceflight participant with the Russian space program


  • Ali Akbar Fayyaz,
  • Mahmoud Khayami, born 1930 in Mashhad, Iran, Iranian born industrialist and philanthropist, of French nationality
  • Hossein Sabet, Iranian businessman and Persian carpet dealer who owns Sabet International Trading Co.
  • Hesam Kolahan, ITman of International Web Consortium.

Picture gallery

File:RezaShrine.jpg|Imam Reza ShrineFile:Ferdowsi_tomb_01.jpg|Tomb of Ferdowsi in TousmarkerFile:Ferdosi.jpg|Front facade of the Ferdowsi's mausoleum in TousmarkerFile:Haruniyeh.JPG|Haruniyeh Dome in TousmarkerFile:Malekshouse.jpg|Malek's House in MashhadFile:Stmesropchurch.jpg|St. Mesrop Church in MashhadFile:NadirShahAfshar.JPG|Nadir Shah Museum in MashhadFile:TousMuseum2.JPG|Tous Museum near MashhadFile:Shandiz2.JPG|Shandiz a tourist town near MashhadFile:ImamRezaHospital.JPG|Imam Reza Hospital (formerly Shah Reza Hospital)

Sister cities

orumchie chinedoshanbe tajekestan


Flag Country Address
Afghanistanmarker Mashad Iran
Iraqmarker Mashhad Iran
Kazakhstanmarker Mashad Iran
Kyrgyzstanmarker Mashhad Iran
Pakistanmarker Mashad Iran
Tajikistanmarker Mashhad Iran
Turkmenistanmarker Mashhad Iran
Saudi Arabiamarker Mashad Iran


  1. Zabeth (1999) pp. 12-13
  2. Zabeth (1999) pp. 13-16
  3. Zabeth (1999) pp. 14-15
  4. Ervand, History of Modern Iran, (2008), p.94
  5. Bakhash, Shaul, Reign of the Ayatollahs : Iran and the Islamic Revolution by Shaul, Bakhash, Basic Books, c1984, p.22

See also


External links


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