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.