Mashhad

June 18

The capital of Khorasan Razavi province in northeast Iran and the second largest city in the country, Mashhad is best known for its beautiful pilgrimage shrine of Imam Reza. 

The shrine was built on the site of the village of Sanabad, where Imam Reza died in 818 AD (some sources say 817). Imam Reza, the eighth Shi'ite Imam, was born in Medina in 765 AD and was widely known to be a person of both extraordinary scholarship and saintly qualities. At the age of 51, he was surprisingly appointed by the Abbasid Caliph Mamun (a Sunni Muslim) to become his successor as the next caliph. Mamun summoned Imam Reza to Sanabad, publicly proclaimed him his successor, and gave him his daughter in marriage. Mamun's actions, while welcomed by members of the Shi'ite sect, deeply disturbed the rival Sunnis, with the result that several violent uprisings ensued. After staying for a while in Sanabad, Caliph Mamun and Imam Reza departed for Baghdad (to retake the city from political rivals) but during the journey, Reza fell ill and rapidly died. The suddenness of the Imam's death aroused suspicions among Shi'ite believers who believed Mamun had poisoned him in order to quell the political unrest resulting from a Shi'ite Imam being proclaimed caliph-to-be of the vastly more numerous Sunni believers. The capital of Khorasan Razavi province in northeast Iran and the second largest city in the country, Mashhad is best known for its beautiful pilgrimage shrine of Imam Reza. The shrine was built on the site of the village of Sanabad, where Imam Reza died in 818 AD (some sources say 817). Imam Reza, the eighth Shi'ite Imam, was born in Medina in 765 AD and was widely known to be a person of both extraordinary scholarship and saintly qualities.

Mashhad

At the age of 51, he was surprisingly appointed by the Abbasid Caliph Mamun (a Sunni Muslim) to become his successor as the next caliph. Mamun summoned Imam Reza to Sanabad, publicly proclaimed him his successor, and gave him his daughter in marriage. Mamun's actions, while welcomed by members of the Shi'ite sect, deeply disturbed the rival Sunnis, with the result that several violent uprisings ensued. After staying for a while in Sanabad, Caliph Mamun and Imam Reza departed for Baghdad (to retake the city from political rivals) but during the journey, Reza fell ill and rapidly died. The suddenness of the Imam's death aroused suspicions among Shi'ite believers who believed Mamun had poisoned him in order to quell the political unrest resulting from a Shi'ite Imam being proclaimed caliph-to-be of the vastly more numerous Sunni believers. The most glorious phase of Mashhad began during the reign of Shahrukh Mirza, the son of Tamerlane, and reached its zenith during the reign of the Safavid kings who ruled Iran from 1501 to 1786. The Safavid kings beautified the religious complex with golden domes, tiled minarets, and spacious courtyards as well as extensive academic buildings. Having established Shi'ism as the state religion, the brilliant early Safavid rulers, Shah Ismail I, Shah Tahmasp and particularly Shah Abbas I strongly encouraged pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Reza, as well as to the shrine of his sister Fatima in the holy city of Qum. Nadir Shah Afshar and the Qajar kings who ruled Iran from 1779-1923 further enlarged and ornamented the shrine complex, though this period also saw the occasional raids of warlike Turks, Uzbeks, and Afghans. The shrine was shelled by Russian artillery in 1912 and further damaged by troops of Reza Khan in 1935 and Reza Shah in 1978. Since that time the shrine has undergone near continuous renovation and enlargement, and currently, over 20 million pilgrims visit the tomb of Imam Reza each year.

Ferdowsi Tomb:

The ancient city of Tous is the eternal resting place of the most influential of Persian poets, Ferdowsi (940 -1020 CE). Known for his masterpiece the Shahnameh, which recounts Iran's mythical and historical past, Ferdowsi’s tomb has been built in the Achaemenid style of architecture and resembles the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae.

Mashhad

Goharshad Mosque:

Goharshad Mosque was constructed by Goharshad, the wife of Timurid ruler Shahrokh, in 1418. The fineness of its tilework, Thulth inscriptions, and architectural design make this mosque a prime example of Timurid (1370-1507) monuments. Persian blue, turquoise, white green, yellow, and saffron are the main colors used in the decoration of this historic mosque. The dome of the mosque was severely damaged in 1911 in bombings by Russian troops. This mosque has gone under repair during the Safavid (1501-1722) and Qajar (1794-1925) eras.

Green Dome:

Green Dome is a mausoleum in Mashhad reputed to have belonged to a 15th-century mystic, Sheikh Momen Astarabadi, who died in 1499. The building is octagonal-shaped and has a turquoise green dome. The mausoleum, which was built during the reign of Shah Abbas II (1632-1666), has beautiful Thulth inscriptions.

Harounieh:

Located nearly 600 meters from the tomb of Ferdowsi, Harounieh is the only surviving monument from old Tous. It is believed that this magnificent 15th-century monument, which has Azeri architecture, was once a Rabat or a mausoleum. The building is constructed entirely of brick and has no decorations aside from its baroque stucco reliefs.

Khorshid Kalat Palace:

Located 150 kilometers from Mashhad, Khorshid Kalat Palace was built upon the order of Nader Shah Afshar in 1772 to serve as his living quarters and the place he stored his plunders of war. Located in the middle of a large garden, the 12 rooms of the Khorshid Kalat Palace are decorated with wall paintings and stucco reliefs. The most eye-catching feature of this octagonal-shaped palace, which incorporates elements of Indian and Mongolian architecture, is the tower on top of it. Part of this palace has been turned into a museum and houses the canon used during the Nader Shah campaigns.

Kalat Naderi

Naderi Garden and Tomb:

The beautiful Naderi Garden is where the Afsharid King Nader (1736–1747) has been laid to rest. Granite stones from Kouhsangi were used in building the tomb. The ochre-colored stones used on the inner walls of the structure bring to mind Nader Shah’s assassination. The covering of the tomb has been made to resemble a nomadic tent similar to the one Nader Shah was born in and in which he drew his last breath. A statue of Nader Shah riding a horse and holding an axe overlooks the tomb. Colonel Mohammad Taqi Khan Pessian (1892-1921), the first Iranian to pilot a plane, is buried on a corner of this site.

Razavi Shrine (Astan-E Qods Razavi):

The Razavi Shrine is a complex containing the mausoleum of the eighth Shia Imam, Ali ibn Musa al-Reza (765-819 CE). The shrine is surrounded by a number of monuments including the Goharshad Mosque, the Astan-e Qods Museum, a library, four seminaries and the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, as well as a cemetery, a dining hall for pilgrims, and prayer halls. Imam Reza (PBUH) was martyred b ... More

Top foods to try in Mashhad:

• Shishlik – A kebab consisting of large chunks of meat grilled over a Persian barbecue

• Shole- A four-bean soup very popular in Mashhad

• Kuku Shirin- A dish similar to a sweet open-faced omelet

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