Mashhad northeastern city of Iran is the capital of Khorasan Razavi province. Mashhad means a place of martyrdom and it was Imam Reza (PBUH), a descendent of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&F), who was martyred and buried here in 818 CE.
In Persian, khor means sun and san means place; together it means the place where the sun rises.
Today, the sun is rising high in Mashhad as it has been named the religious capital of Iran and annually it hosts over 20 million pilgrims and tourists from around Iran and the world. In the past, Khorasan was a crossroad for the Silk Road and presently, all major air, rail, and roadways connect Mashhad to the rest of the nation as well as the world; thus, restoring a part of this historic roadway.
The official language spoken is Persian or Farsi. However, a good portion of the youth and shopkeepers can understand and speak some English and around the Holy Shrine some can speak Arabic.
Mashhad is a city that suits the taste of everyone. There is a variety of shopping centers and traditional bazaars selling traditional and religious items; in addition to trendy clothing, household items, and high tech goods.
Perhaps the most popular souvenir of Mashhad is saffron. It is sold in traditional measurements called mesghal.
Other popular items are precious turquoise stones and semi-precious stones, as well as silver and 18 karat gold jewelry.
Foodstuffs include traditional-handmade rock candy (nabat), zeresk (barberries), mixed-hand roasted nuts and seeds (ajeel), dried sour cherries, plums, peaches and golden raisins and fruit rolls.
Traditional stone carving and wood cutouts reflecting Iran’s ancient culture and religious background are popular items to buy as well.
Carpets and kilims are another popular purchase.
Prayer beads made from semi-precious stones, glass, wood, and plastic, in various sizes and colors are perhaps the most popular.
The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH)
Before the martyrdom of Imam Reza (PBUH) this area was a small village named Sanabad. After his martyrdom, he was buried in a garden here and many pilgrims flocked here to pay their respects and thus it grew into what is now known as Mashhad. In the 16th century, the Safavid dynasty reconstructed and enlarged the shrine and the magnificent Ghoharshad mosque was built. Annually, millions of pilgrims pay homage to Imam Reza’s (PBUH) holy shrine. The architecture and detailed craftsmanship done on this historic structure is amazing to see.
Inside the Holy Shrine
There are many wondrous sights in this holy shrine, (i.e. the architecture & the museums); and the spiritual uplifting that many, whether Muslim or not, feel here is beyond words.
However, please remember that holy complex is a spiritual place and not a tourist one. Therefore, your visit here should not interfere with its original purpose.
Important! Cameras, large bags, food and drinks, CDs/DVDs, and other items that are forbidden on airplanes are barred from entry into the Holy Shrine Complex. The dress code for women require that they wear a chador (any color), no make-up, and socks. For men they must wear clothing suitable for visiting religious sites.
The Central Library of Astan-e-Quds Razavi
This great library holds some of the most significant and priceless manuscripts of ancient Persia, the Islamic world and the region. In fact, some Quranic manuscripts date back to over 1,000 years.
The Museums of Astan-e-Quds
The Astan-e-Quds museums are considered the most exquisite in the region with some artifacts dating back to a thousand years. There is the Central Museum and the Quran and Stamp Museums. There are no words to properly describe the beauty of some of the artifacts housed in these museums.
Mehdi Gholi Beik Bath House (Anthropology Museum)
This bath house was built during the reign of Shah Abbas I (ca. 1587-1629 CE). It holds artifacts of the past, which were used in bath houses and has an interesting collection of samovars, tea sets, and a historical photo collection.
This magnificent mosque was built by Goharshad, the wife of Shahrokh, a Timurid king (1405-1447). This king was one of the greatest benefactors of art and culture that the world has ever seen.