Introduction of Mashad:

Every year several million people visit Mashad tourist attractions and the absolute majority of them (over 20 million) are religious travelers going there for pilgrimage. There is one major religious sight in Mashad to which all Iranian and non-Iranian Shiites go and it is the Shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Twelver Shiites. As he has been martyred there, the name of the city is Mashhad, which means the place of martyrdom in Arabic.

Mashad itself has grown into a large industrialized city as well. In ancient times, it has been on the Silk Route  passing through north east of Iran. The location, historical events and the religious reasons have all contributed to the growing importance of the city.

General Information about Mashad

Mashad or as it is commonly spelled “Mashhad”, is the second largest city of Iran in terms of population accommodating 3,615,000 people in it. It is situated at an elevation of approximately 980m above sea level  and located between two local mountain ranges of Binalood and Hezar-Masjed. Mashad features a steppe climate with hot summers and cool winters. Generally it is dry and hot in summer days and gets relatively cold in winter days.

Mashad is the birthplace of several Iranian literary figures and artists including Ferdosy, the Iranian poet who saved the Persian language after Arabs’ invasion. It is believed that Tus, Ferdosy’s birthplace and a small town nearby, has been the origin of the city before it was expanded to this large scale we see these days.

History of Mashad

Beginning as a village in 9th century, it was known as Sanabad. The Abbasid Caliph, Harun, died and was buried there. Then, Imam Reza was martyred and buried next to him. The burial place of the Imam turned into a shrine to which many began to visit to show their respect. Therefore, by the end of 9th century, a dome was built on top of the grave, several buildings were constructed and lots of shops were opened around it to serve the pilgrims.

Under Mongols’ invasion in 13th century, a large number of people whose cities, towns and houses had been demolished, began to migrate to Mashad. This was because it was almost unharmed. In around one century, the city grew largely and prospered. In 15th century, when Timurids ruled over this part of Iran, Goharshad, the wife of Shahrokh Khan, decided to build a magnificent mosque next to the shrine. This added to the importance of the sight as well as the city.

When Iran turned into Shiite branch of Islam during Safavids in 16th century, Mashad gained a lot of  importance particularly after it was conquered and freed from the hand of Uzbeks by Shah Abbas I. He helped the popularity of the city by promoting pilgrimage to Mashad, built several madrases and other structures beside the shrine.

In 18th century, Mashad was the capital of Nader Shah. Under Qajars and after that the city was the target of local rulers trying to lay their hands on Mashad to have absolute control over it. In 1912, Russians bombed the sanctuary of Imam Reza and in 1994 a bomb exploded there and killed several people.

Also, Mashad has played political roles during the history led by its religious leaders. The Khorasan province used to be much larger than the present boundaries set for it and stretched over Iran’s neighboring countries. Mashad had become the largest city in the province. Today it’s the major city of Iran at the north east of the country.


Places to Visit in & around Mashad:

Imam Reza’s Shrine Compound:

This is the main religious and architectural highlight of Mashad to visit incorporating several outstanding structures including fantastic 15th century architecture of Goharshad Mosque. Imam Reza, the 8th Imam of Twelver Shiites is buried here.

Tomb of Nader Shah:

Nader was the founder of Afsharid dynasty that expelled Afghan rebels invading Esfehan and launched an attack to India afterward to punish them for supporting Afghans. His statue shows him on the horseback as a warrior.

Mausoleum of Ferdosy:

This is resting place of the most famous Iranian poet in Tus who saved the Persian language by composing his book “Shahnakeh” in 30 years when it was forbidden to write anything in Persian.


It is the mausoleum the famous Iranian Sufi, Imam Mohammad Ghazali in Tus, which is close to the mausoleum of Ferdosy. The brick structure is huge, worth visiting and representing 14th century architecture.

Khorshid Palace:

It is also known as Kakh-e-Khorshid located at Kalat e Naderi close to Turkmenistan border. The unique architecture of this structure in Iran is worth visiting and even the road to this monument is particularly attractive.

Robat Sharaf:

This is one of the oldest caravansaries in Iran built in 12th century with four-eyvan courtyard and beautiful brick decorations near Afghanistan border. It looks isolated and hidden although it used to be a major one on trade routes.

Mausoleum of Ahmad Jami:

This is the burial place of a famous 12th century Iranian Sufi and poet in Torbat-e-Jam. Eight different structures have been built at this mausoleum since 13th century.


Omar Khayyam Mausoleum:

The tomb of famous Iranian mathematician and poet of 11th century was built in 20th century in Neyshaboor. Architecture is geometrically sophisticated and fascinating in a beautiful garden.

Tomb of Farid-ud-din-Attar:

This is the burial place of Iranian Sufi, poet and theoretician of mysticism in 12th century. The structure is 15th century built under Timurids in Neyshaboor.

Imamzadeh Mahruq:

This is the mausoleum of a 10th century religious figure built in 16th century located in Neyshaboor.

Tomb of Khajeh Rabi:

Around 6km north of Mashad, this tomb is the burial place of Imam Reza’s disciple decorated with beautiful calligraphy of Reza Abbasy.

Tomb of Khajeh Morad:

It is just outside Mashad on Neyshabur road and is the burial place of one of Imam Reza’s disciple.

Tomb of Khajeh Abasalt:

This is also another burial place of a disciple of Imam Reza just outside Mashad on Neyshabur road.

Mashad Hotels:

5 Stars

Ghasr Hotel

Ghasr Talaee Hotel

Darvishi Hotel

Pars Hotel

Homa Hotel

Pardisan Hotel

Madinahalreza Hotel

4 Stars
3 Stars

Not Available!

Tourist Inn

Not Available!

Rahman Mehraby

Rahman Mehraby is the founder and owner of Destination Iran. He plans quality tours and provides advice for tour customization. You can rely on his itineraries to get an exclusive tour to Iran.

2 thoughts on “Mashad

  • August 23, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Happy birthday, Rahman, and thanks for introdusing me to Mashad!
    All the best from Anne!

    • August 31, 2015 at 8:09 pm

      Hi Anne. Thanks for the birthday greetings.
      I’m happy you found Masther interesting. You’ve traveled to Iran twice and I see you find other destinations inside Iran inspiring!


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