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Sanaabad, Tus, Alexandria
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Hedayat Little Bazaar- Near Holy shrine of Imam Reza - Mashhad 01.JPG
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From up: Bird's eye view of Mashhad, Nader Shah Tomb, Mashhad at night, Hedayat Little Bazzar, Ferdowsi Tomb, Imam Reza Shrine
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Mashhad: Smart City, City of Hope and Life
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Location in Iran
Coordinates: 36°18′N59°36′E / 36.300°N 59.600°E / 36.300; 59.600 Coordinates: 36°18′N59°36′E / 36.300°N 59.600°E / 36.300; 59.600
CountryFlag of Iran.svg  Iran
Province Razavi Khorasan
County Mashhad
Bakhsh Central
Mashhad-Sanabad-Tus818 AD
  Mayor Mohammad Reza Kalaei
   City Council Chairperson Mohammad Reza Heydari
  City351 km2 (136 sq mi)
995 m (3,264 ft)
 (2016 census)
3,372,090 [2]
3,600,650 [3]
  Population Rank in Iran
 Over 20 million pilgrims and tourists per year [4]
Demonym(s) Mashhadi, Mashadi, Mashdi (informal)
Time zone UTC+03:30 (IRST)
  Summer (DST) UTC+04:30 (IRDT)
Climate BSk
Largest district by areaDistrict 9 (64 km2, land area)
Largest district by populationDistrict 2 (480,000)

Mashhad (Persian : مشهد, romanized: Mašhad [mæʃˈhæd] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )), also spelled Mashad or Meshed, [5] [6] [7] is the second-most-populous city in Iran and the capital of Razavi Khorasan Province. It is located in the northeast of the country. It has a population of 3,001,184 (2016 census), which includes the areas of Mashhad Taman and Torqabeh. [8] It was a major oasis along the ancient Silk Road connecting with Merv to the east.


The city is named after the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. The Imam was buried in a village in Khorasan, which afterward gained the name Mashhad, meaning the place of martyrdom. Every year, millions of pilgrims visit the Imam Reza shrine. The Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid is also buried within the same shrine.

Mashhad has been governed by different ethnic groups over the course of its history. The city enjoyed relative prosperity in the Mongol period.

Mashhad is also known colloquially as the city of Ferdowsi, after the Iranian poet who composed the Shahnameh . The city is the hometown of some of the most significant Iranian literary figures and artists, such as the poet Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, and Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, the traditional Iranian singer and composer. Ferdowsi and Akhavan-Sales are both buried in Tus, an ancient city that is considered to be the main origin of the current city of Mashhad.

On 30 October 2009 (the anniversary of Imam Reza's martyrdom), Iran's then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Mashhad to be "Iran's spiritual capital". [9] [10]


Etymology and early history

Mashhad (as Alexandria) on the Tabula Peutingeriana, an ancient Roman map. Mashhad and merw on tabula Peutingeriana.png
Mashhad (as Alexandria) on the Tabula Peutingeriana, an ancient Roman map.

Ancient Greek sources mention the passage and residence of Alexander the Great in this land, which was called "Susia" (Ancient Greek : Σούσια), in 330 BC. [11] [12] [13] [14] The map of Tabula Peutingeriana, which dates back to the early Roman era, names this city on the west of Merv, Alexandria, instead of Susia. [15] Pliny the Elder, says there is a city in the middle of Parthia, near Arsace and Nisiaea, called "Alexandropolis" after its founder. [16] Many Muslim historians, from the 10th to the 16th century AD, attribute the founding of "Sanaabad" (the old name of the city) to Alexander. [17] [18] Also in the Shia hadith sources, which the narrators connect to the 7th to 9th centuries AD, there are quotations that Imam Ridha and Harun al-Rashid are buried in a city founded by "The righteous servant, The two-horned one", which title that known for Alexander the Great. [19] [20] [21] [22]

The older name of Mashhad is Sanaabad (سناباد). It was eventually renamed to Mashhad during the Safavid Empire. The name Mashhad comes from Arabic, meaning a martyrium. [23] [24] It is also known as the place where Ali ar-Ridha (Persian, Imam Reza), the eighth Imam of Shia Muslims, died (according to the Shias, was martyred). Reza's shrine was placed there. [25]

The ancient Parthian city of Patigrabanâ, mentioned in the Behistun inscription (520 BCE) of the Achaemenid Emperor Darius I, may have been located at the present-day Mashhad. [26]

At the beginning of the 9th century (3rd century AH), Mashhad was a small city called Sanabad, which was situated 24 kilometres (15 miles) away from Tus. There was a summer palace of Humayd ibn Qahtaba, the governor of Khurasan. In 808, when Harun al-Rashid, Abbasid caliph, was passing through to quell the insurrection of Rafi ibn al-Layth in Transoxania, he became ill and died. He was buried under the palace of Humayd ibn Qahtaba. Thus the Dar al-Imarah was known as the Mausoleum of Haruniyyeh. In 818, Ali al-Ridha was martyred by al-Ma'mun and was buried beside the grave of Harun. [27] Although Mashhad owns the cultural heritage of Tus (including its figures like Nizam al-Mulk, Al-Ghazali, Ahmad Ghazali, Ferdowsi, Asadi Tusi, and Shaykh Tusi), earlier Arab geographers have correctly identified Mashhad and Tus as two separate cities that are now located about 19 kilometres (12 miles) from each other.

Mongolian invasion: Ilkhanates

Although some believe that after this event, the city was called Mashhad al-Ridha (the place of martyrdom of al-Ridha), it seems that Mashhad, as a place-name, first appears in al-Maqdisi, i.e., in the last third of the 10th century. About the middle of the 14th century, the traveller Ibn Battuta uses the expression "town of Mashhad al-Rida". Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the name Nuqan, which is still found on coins in the first half of the 14th century under the Il-Khanids, seems to have been gradually replaced by al-Mashhad or Mashhad.

Terken Khatun, Empress of the Khwarazmian Empire, known as "the Queen of the Turks", held captive by Mongol army. Terken-Khatun-Captive-Initi.gif
Terken Khatun, Empress of the Khwarazmian Empire, known as "the Queen of the Turks", held captive by Mongol army.

Shias began to make pilgrimages to his grave. By the end of the 9th century, a dome was built above the grave, and many other buildings and bazaars sprang up around it. Over the course of more than a millennium, it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. [28] In 1161, however, the Ghuzz Turks seized the city, but they spared the sacred area their pillaging. Mashad al-Ridha was not considered a "great" city until Mongol raids in 1220, which caused the destruction of many large cities in Khurasan but leaving Mashhad relatively intact in the hands of Mongolian commanders because of the cemetery of Ali Al-Rezza and Harun al-Rashid (the latter was stolen). [29] Thus the survivors of the massacres migrated to Mashhad. [30] When the 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. [4] The most well-known dish cooked in Mashhad, "sholeh Mashhadi" (شله مشهدی) or "Sholeh", dates back to the era of the Mongolian invasion when it is thought to be cooked with any food available (the main ingredients are meat, grains and abundant spices) and be a Mongolian word. [31] [32]

Timurid Empire

The map of the Persian Empire in 1747 at the time of Afsharid Dynasty. The name of Mashhad is seen belong Tous Persian(IRAN) Empire 1747.jpg
The map of the Persian Empire in 1747 at the time of Afsharid Dynasty. The name of Mashhad is seen belong Tous

It seems that the importance of Sanabad-Mashhad continually increased with the growing fame of its sanctuary and the decline of Tus, which received its death-blow in 1389 from Miran Shah, a son of Timur. When the Mongol noble who governed the place rebelled and attempted to make himself independent, Miran Shah was sent against him by his father. Tus was stormed after a siege of several months, sacked and left a heap of ruins; 10,000 inhabitants were massacred. Those who escaped the holocaust settled in the shelter of the 'Alid sanctuary. Tus was henceforth abandoned and Mashhad took its place as the capital of the district.[ citation needed ]

Later on, during the reign of the Timurid Shahrukh Mirza, Mashhad became one of the main cities of the realm. In 1418, his wife Goharshad funded the construction of an outstanding mosque beside the shrine, which is known as the Goharshad Mosque. [30] The mosque remains relatively intact to this date, its great size an indicator to the status the city held in the 15th century.

Safavid dynasty

Shah Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty, conquered Mashhad after the death of Husayn Bayqarah and the decline of the Timurid dynasty. He was later captured by the Uzbeks during the reign of Shah Abbas I. In the 16th century the town suffered considerably from the repeated raids of the Özbegs (Uzbeks). In 1507, it was taken by the troops of the Shaybani or Shabani Khan. After two decades, Shah Tahmasp I succeeded in repelling the enemy from the town again in 1528. But in 1544, the Özbegs again succeeded in entering the town and plundering and murdering there. The year 1589 was a disastrous one for Mashhad. The Shaybanid 'Abd al-Mu'min after a four months' siege forced the town to surrender. Shah Abbas I, who lived in Mashhad from 1585 till his official ascent of the throne in Qazwin in 1587, was not able to retake Mashhad from the Özbegs till 1598. Mashhad was retaken by the Shah Abbas after a long and hard struggle, defeating the Uzbeks in a great battle near Herat as well as managing to drive them beyond the Oxus River. Shah Abbas I wanted to encourage Iranians to go to Mashhad for pilgrimage. He is said to have walked from Isfahan to Mashhad. During the Safavid era, Mashhad gained even more religious recognition, becoming the most important city of Greater Khorasan, as several madrasah and other structures were built beside the Imam Reza shrine. Besides its religious significance, Mashhad has played an important political role as well. The Safavid dynasty has been criticized in a book (Red Shi'sm vs. Black Shi'ism) on the perceived dual aspects of the Shi'a religion throughout history) as a period in which although the dynasty didn't form the idea of Black Shi'ism, but this idea was formed after the defeat of Shah Ismail against the Ottoman leader Sultan Yavuz Selim. Black Shi'ism is a product of the post-Safavid period.

Afsharid dynasty

Mashad saw its greatest glory under Nader Shah, ruler of Iran from 1736 to 1747, and also a great benefactor of the shrine of Imam Reza, who made the city his capital. Nearly the whole eastern part of the kingdom of Nadir Shah passed to foreign rulers in this period of Persian impotence under the rule of the vigorous Ahmad Shah Durrani of the Afghan Durrani Empire. Ahmad defeated the Persians and took Mashhad after an eight-month siege in 1753. Ahmad Shah and his successor Timur Shah left Shah Rukh in possession of Khurasan as their vassal, making Khurasan a kind of buffer state between them and Persia. As the city's real rulers, however, both these Durrani rulers struck coins in Mashhad. Otherwise, the reign of the blind Shah Rukh, which with repeated short interruptions lasted for nearly half a century, passed without any events of special note. It was only after the death of Timur Shah (1792) that Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, the founder of the Qajar dynasty, succeeded in taking Shah Rukh's domains and putting him to death in 1795, thus ending the separation of Khurasan from the rest of Persia.

Qajar dynasty

Mashhad in 1858 Mashhad in 1858.jpg
Mashhad in 1858

Some believe that Mashhad was ruled by Shahrukh Afshar and remained the capital of the Afsharid dynasty during Zand dynasty [33] until Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar conquered the then larger region of Khorasan in 1796. [34]

1912 Imam Reza shrine bombardment

In 1911 Yusuf Khan of Herat was declared independent in Mashhad as Muhammad Ali Shah and brought together a large group of reactionaries opposed to the revolution, and keep stirring for some time. This gave Russia the excuse to intervene and 29 March 1912 bombed the city; this bombing killed several people and pilgrims; action against a Muslim shrine caused a great shock to all Islamic countries. On 29 March 1912, the sanctuary of Imam Reza was bombed by the Russian artillery fire, causing some damage, including to the golden dome, resulting in a widespread and persisting resentment in the Shiite Muslim world as well as British India. This bombing was orchestrated by Prince Aristid Mikhailovich Dabizha (a Moldovan who was the Russian Consul in Mashhad) and General Radko (a Bulgarian who was commander of the Russian Cossacks in the city). [35] Yusuf Khan ended up captured by the Persians and was executed.

Pahlavi dynasty

Modernization under Reza Shah

The modern development of the city accelerated under Reza Shah (1925-1941). Shah Reza Hospital (currently Imam Reza Hospital, affiliated with the Basij organization) was founded in 1934; the sugar factory of Abkuh in 1935; and the Faculty of Medicine of Mashhad in 1939. The city's first power station was installed in 1936, and in 1939, the first urban transport service began with two buses. In this year the first population census was performed, with a result of 76,471 inhabitants. [36]

1935 Imam Reza shrine rebellion

In 1935, a backlash against the modernizing, anti-religious policies of Reza Shah erupted in the Mashhad shrine. Responding to a cleric who denounced the Shah's heretical innovations, corruption, and heavy consumer taxes, many bazaars and villagers took refuge in the shrine, chanted slogans such as "The Shah is a new Yazid." For four days local police and army refused to violate the shrine and the standoff was ended when troops from Azerbaijan arrived and broke into the shrine, [37] killing dozens and injuring hundreds, and marking a final rupture between Shi'ite clergy and the Shah. [38] According to some Mashhadi historians, the Goharshad Mosque uprising, which took place in 1935, is an uprising against Reza Shah's decree banning all veils (headscarf and chador) on 8 January 1936.[ citation needed ]

1941–1979 reforms

Comprehensive planning of Mashhad in 1974 Mashhadplan.jpg
Comprehensive planning of Mashhad in 1974

Mashhad experienced population growth after the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941 because of relative insecurity in rural areas, the 1948 drought, and the establishment of Mashhad University in 1949. At the same time, public transport vehicles increased to 77 buses and 200 taxis and the railway link with the capital, Tehran, was established in 1957. The 1956 census reflected a population of 241,989 people. The increase in population continued in the following years thanks to the increase in Iranian oil revenues, the decline of the feudal social model, the agrarian reform of 1963, the founding of the city's airport, the creation of new factories and the development of the health system. In 1966, the population reached 409,616 inhabitants, and 667,770 in 1976. The extension of the city was expanded from 16 to 33 square kilometres (170,000,000 to 360,000,000 square feet).

In 1965 an important urban renewal development project for the surroundings of the shrine of Imam Reza was proposed by the Iranian architect and urban designer Dariush Borbor to replace the dilapidated slum conditions which surrounded the historic monuments. The project was officially approved in 1968. In 1977 the surrounding areas were demolished to make way for the implementation of this project. To relocate the demolished businesses, a new bazaar was designed and constructed in Meydan-e Ab square (in Persian, میدان آب") [36] by Dariush Borbor. After the revolution, the urban renewal project was abandoned.

1994 Imam Reza shrine bombing

On 20 June 1994, a bomb exploded in a prayer hall of the shrine of the Imam Reza [39] The bomb that killed at least 25 people on 20 June in Mashhad exploded on Ashura. [40] The Baloch terrorist, Ramzi Yousef, a Sunni Muslim turned Wahhabi, one of the main perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was found to be behind the plot. [41] However, official state media blamed Mehdi Nahvi, a supposed member of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MKO), a fundamentally Marxist organization, to prevent sectarian violence.

Mashhad after the Revolution

In 1998 and 2003 there were student disturbances after the same events in Tehran.


The city is located at 36.20º North latitude and 59.35º East longitude, in the valley of the Kashafrud River near Turkmenistan, between the two mountain ranges of Binalood and Hezar Masjed Mountains. The city benefits from the proximity of the mountains, having cool winters, pleasant springs, and mild summers.[ citation needed ] It is only about 250 km (160 mi) from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

The city is the administrative center 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 more than 3 million. [42]


Mashhad features a steppe climate (Köppen BSk) with hot summers and cold winters. The city only sees about 250 millimetres (9.8 inches) of precipitation per year, some of which occasionally falls in the form of snow. Mashhad also has wetter and drier periods with the bulk of the annual precipitation falling between the months of December and May. Summers are typically hot and dry, with high temperatures sometimes exceeding 33 °C (91 °F). Winters are typically cool to cold and somewhat damper, with overnight lows routinely dropping below freezing. Mashhad enjoys on average just above 2900 hours of sunshine per year.

Climate data for Mashhad (1951–2010, extremes 1951–2010)
Record high °C (°F)20.0
Average high °C (°F)6.1
Daily mean °C (°F)1.7
Average low °C (°F)−5.8
Record low °C (°F)−27.0
Average precipitation mm (inches)32.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average snowy days5.
Average relative humidity (%)75736962503734333749637354
Mean monthly sunshine hours 148.3147.5163.3200.4280.4343.2366.9359.7305.2249.5188.3151.62,904.3
Source: Iran Meteorological Organization (records), [43] (temperatures), [44] (precipitation), [45] (humidity), [46] (days with precipitation), [47]

[48] (sunshine) [49]


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
source: [50]

There are also over 20 million pilgrims who visit the city every year. [4]

Ethnic groups

The vast majority of Mashhadi people are ethnic Persians, who form the majority of the city's population. Other ethnic groups include Kurdish and Turkish-speaking people who have emigrated recently to the city from the North Khorasan province. There is also a significant community of non-Arabic speakers of Arabian descent who have retained a distinct Arabian culture, cuisine and religious practices.

Ethnic Groups
Khorasani Turks
Khorasani Kurds


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 shrine (the eighth Shi'ite Imam). It has been a magnet for travellers since medieval times. [4] 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. As an important problem, the duration when new passengers stay in Mashhad has been considerably reduced to 2 days nowadays and they prefer to finish their trip immediately after doing pilgrimage and shopping in the markets. [51] There are about 3000–5000 unauthorized residential units in Mashhad, [52] which, as a unique statistic worldwide, has caused various problems in the city.[ citation needed ]

Although mainly inhabited by Muslims, there were in the past some religious minorities in Mashhad, mainly Jews who were forcibly converted to Islam in 1839 after the Allahdad incident took place for Mashhadi Jews in 1839. [53] They became known as Jadid al-Islam ("Newcomers in Islam"). On the outside, they adapted to the Islamic way of life, but often secretly kept their faith and traditions. [54] [55] [56] [57] [58]


Turquoise, one of the products of Mashhad Firoozeh.jpg
Turquoise, one of the products of Mashhad

Mashhad is Iran's second largest automobile production hub. The city's economy is based mainly on dry fruits, salted nuts, saffron, Iranian sweets like gaz and sohaan, precious stones like agates, turquoise, intricately designed silver jewelry studded with rubies and emeralds, eighteen carat gold jewelry, perfumes, religious souvenirs, trench coats, scarves, termeh, carpets, and rugs.

According to the writings and documents, the oldest existing carpet attributed to the city belongs to the reign of Shah Abbas (Abbas I of Persia). Also, there is a type of carpet, classified as Mashhad Turkbâf, which, as its name suggests, is woven by hand with Turkish knots by craftsmen who emigrated from Tabriz to Mashhad in the nineteenth century. Among other major industries in the city are the nutrition, clothing, leather, textiles, chemical, steel, metallic, and non-metallic mineral industries, construction materials factories, & the handicraft industry.

With more than 55% of all the hotels in Iran, Mashhad is the hub of tourism in the country. Religious shrines are the most powerful attractions for foreign travelers; every year, 20 to 30 million pilgrims from Iran and more than 2 million pilgrims and tourists from elsewhere around the world come to Mashhad. [59] Mashhad is one of the main producers of leather products in the region.

Unemployment, poverty, drug addiction, theft, and sexual exploitation are the most important social problems of the city. [60]

The divorce rate in Mashhad had increased by 35 percent by 2014. [61] [62] Khorasan and Mashhad ranked the second in violence across the country in 2013. [63]

Astan Quds Razavi

At the same time, the city has kept its character as a goal of pilgrimage, dominated by the strength of the economic and political authority of the Astan Quds Razavi, the administration of the Shrine waqf, probably the most important in the Muslim world[ citation needed ]and the largest active bonyad in Iran. [64] The Astan Quds Razavi is a major player in the economy of the city of Mashhad. [65] The land occupied by the shrine has grown fourfold since 1979 according to the head of the foundation's international relations department. The Shrine of Imam Reza is vaster than Vatican City. [64] The foundation owns most of the real estate in Mashhad and rents out shop space to bazaaris and hoteliers. [65] The main resource of the institution is endowments, estimated to have annual revenue of $210 billion. [66] Ahmad Marvi is the current Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi.

Alton mall at Mashhad AltonTower-14.jpg
Alton mall at Mashhad

Padideh Shandiz

Mashhad Carpet Mashad 9'10" X 12'9".jpg
Mashhad Carpet

Padideh Shandiz International Tourism Development Company, an Iranian private joint-stock holding company, behaves like a public company by selling stocks despite being a joint-stock in the field of restaurants, tourism and construction,[ citation needed ] with a football club (Padideh F.C.; formerly named Azadegan League club Mes Sarcheshmeh). In January 2015, the company was accused of a "fraud" worth $34.3 billion, which is one eighth of Iran budget. [67]

Credit institutions

Several credit institutions have been established in Mashhad, including Samenolhojaj (مؤسسه مالی و اعتباری ثامن الحجج), Samenola'emmeh (مؤسسه اعتباری ثامن) and Melal (formerly Askariye,مؤسسه اعتباری عسکریه). The depositors of the first institution have faced problem in receiving cash from the institution. [68] [69] [70]


The city's International Exhibition Center is the second most active exhibition center after Tehran, which due to proximity to Central Asian countries hosts dozens of international exhibitions each year.[ citation needed ] Companies such as Smart-innovators in Mashhad are pioneers in electrical and computer technology.[ citation needed ]


The language mainly spoken in Mashhad is Persian with a variating Mashhadi accent, which can at times, prove itself as a sort of dialect. The Mashhadi Persian dialect is somewhat different from the standard Persian dialect in some of its tones and stresses. [71] [72] Today, the Mashhadi dialect is rarely spoken by young people of Mashhad, most of them perceive it as a humiliation. This is thought to be related to the non-positive performance of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). [73]


Relief in Tous depicting popular stories of Persian mythology, from the book of Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. Ferdowsi phoenixferdowsi.jpg
Relief in Tous depicting popular stories of Persian mythology, from the book of Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.

Religious seminaries

Tomb of Ferdowsi in Tous. Ferdowsi tomb 01.jpg
Tomb of Ferdowsi in Tous.

Long a center of secular and religious learning, Mashhad has been a center for the Islamic arts and sciences as well as piety and pilgrimage. Mashhad was an educational centre, with a considerable number of Islamic schools (madrasas, the majority of them, however, dating from the later afavid period.[ citation needed ]Mashhad Hawza (Persian: حوزه علمیه مشهد) is one of the largest seminaries of traditional Islamic school of higher learning in Mashhad, which was headed by Abbas Vaez-Tabasi (who was Chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi board from 1979) after the revolution and in which Iranian politician and clerics such as Ali Khamenei, Ahmad Alamolhoda, Abolghasem Khazali, Mohammad Reyshahri, Morteza Motahhari, Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, Madmoud Halabi (the founder of Hojjatieh and Mohammad Hadi Abd-e Khodaee learned Islamic studies. The number of seminary schools in Mashhad is now thirty nine and there are an estimated 2300 seminarians in the city. [74]

The Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, named after the great Iranian poet, is located here and is regarded as the third institution in attracting foreign students, mainly from Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Central Asian republics. 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 Talabeh, or "Mollah" internationally.

Tomb of Nader Shah mqbrh ndr shh - mshhd (2).jpg
Tomb of Nader Shah

Mashhad is also home to one of the oldest libraries of the Middle-East called the Central Library of Astan Quds Razavi with a history of over six centuries. There are some six million historical documents in the foundation's central library. A museum is also home to over 70,000 rare manuscripts from various historical eras

The Astan Quds Razavi Central Museum, which is part of the Astan-e Quds Razavi Complex, contains Islamic art and historical artifacts. In 1976, a new edifice was designed and constructed by the well-known Iranian architect Dariush Borbor to house the museum and the ancient manuscripts.

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.

Mashhad active galleries include: Mirak Gallery, Parse Gallery, Rezvan Gallery, Soroush Gallery, and the Narvan Gallery.

During the recent years, Mashhad has been a clerical base to monitor the affairs and decisions of state. In 2015, Mashhad's clerics publicly criticized the performance of concert in Mashhad, which led to the order of cancellation of concerts in the city by Ali Jannati, the minister of culture, and then his resignation on 19 October 2016.


There are two influential newspapers in Mashhad, Khorasan (خراسان)and Qods (قدس), which have been considered "conservative newspapers" They are two Mashhad-based daily published by and representing the views of their current and old owners: Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs and Astan Quds Razavi, respectively. [75]

Capital of Islamic culture

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named Mashhad 2017's "cultural capital of the Muslim world" in Asia on 24 January 2017.[ citation needed ] Several international events especially entrepreneurs networking event entitled Entrepreneurs Show 2017 was organized by CODE International in collaboration with Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Khorasan Science and Technology Park and city district government of Mashhad. [76]

Main sites

Khayam Street Khayam - Mashhad.jpg
Khayam Street

Apart from Imam Reza shrine, there are a number of large parks, the tombs of historical celebrities in nearby Tus and Nishapur, the tomb of Nader Shah and Kooh Sangi park. The Koohestan Park-e-Shadi Complex 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 tomb of Khajeh Rabi' located 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) 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 kilometres (12 miles) from Mashhad along the road to Neishabur. (The three were all disciples of Imam Reza).

Among the other sights are the tomb of the poet Ferdowsi in Tus, 24 kilometres (15 miles) distance, and the summer resorts at Torghabeh, Torogh, Akhlamad, 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.


Cable Intersection at Imam Hossein square Cable Intersection - Imam Hossein sq - Mashhad.jpg
Cable Intersection at Imam Hossein square


Mashhad is served by the Mashhad International Airport, which handles domestic flights to Iranian cities and international flights, mostly to neighbouring Arab countries. The airport is the country's second busiest after Tehran Mehrabad Airport and above Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport. [77]

It is connected to 57 destinations and has frequent flights to 30 cities within Iran and 27 destinations in the Central Asia, the Middle East, East Asia and Europe. [78]

A man walks inside Mashhad International Airport Mashhad Airport by Tasnimnews 09.jpg
A man walks inside Mashhad International Airport

The airport has been under a US$45.7 ml vast expansion project which has been finished by opening a new Haj Terminal with 10,000 m area on 24 May 2010 and followed by opening a new international terminal with 30000 m2 area with a new parking building, a new custom storage and cargo terminal, new safety and fire fighting buildings and upgrades to taxiways and equipment. Another USD26.5 ml development project for construction of new hangar for aircraft repair facilities and expansion of the west side of the domestic terminal is underway using a BOT contract with the private sector[ citation needed ].


Mashhad Urban Railway Corporation (MURCO) is constructing metro and light rail system for the city of Mashhad which includes four lines with 84.5 kilometres (52.5 miles) length. Mashhad Urban Railway Operation Company(MUROC) [79] is responsible for the operation of the lines. The LRT line has been operational since 21 February 2011 with 19.5 kilometres (12.1 miles) length and 22 stations [80] and is connected to Mashhad International Airport from early 2016. The total length of line 1 is 24 kilometers and has 24 stations. the current headway in peak hours is 4.5 minutes. The second line which is a metro line with 14.5  km length and 13 stations. line 2 construction is going to finish in early 2020. The first phase of line 2 with 8 kilometers and 7 stations is started since 21 February 2017. On 20 March two stations were added to the network in test operational mode and the first interchange station was added to the network. In 7 May 2018 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took part in the inauguration ceremony of the first Mashhad Urban Railway interchange station "Shariati" which connects line 1 and 2. [81] in 27 July shahid Kaveh station operation began and the length of operational part of line 2 reached to 13.5 kilometers. In 18 the November 2019 Alandasht station Began operation. Currently line 2 operates everyday with 13.5 km and 11 stations from 6 am to 10 pm and the current headway is 10 minutes. [82] Currently Mashhad Urban Railway Operation Company(MUROC) [79] Operates 2 lines with 37.5 kilometers length and 35 stations. Tunnel excavation of line 3 has begun and more than 14 kilometers of tunnel excavation is done using two Tunnel Boring Machines [83] and operation of the first phase of line 3 is expected to start in 2021. Tunnel Excavation of line 4 is going to start in summer 2019. [84]


Mashhad is connected to three major rail lines: Tehran-Mashhad, Mashhad-Bafgh (running south), and Mashhad-Sarakhs at the border with Turkmenistan. Some freight trains continue from Sarakhs towards Uzbekistan and to Kazakhstan, but have to change bogies because of the difference in Rail gauge. Passenger rail services are provided by Raja Passenger Trains Company [85] and all trains are operated by R.A.I., [86] Rah-Ahan (Railway) of Iran, the national railway company.

A new service from Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan to Mashad, Iran was launched in December 2016. [87]


Road 95 links Mashhad south to Torbat-e Heydarieh and Birjand. Road 44 goes west towards Shahrud and Tehran. Road 22 travels northwest towards Bojnurd. Ashgabat in Turkmenistan is 220 km away and is accessible via Road 22 (AH78).

Government and politics

Members of Parliament

Mashhad's current members of parliament are described as politicians with fundamentalist conservative tendencies, who are mostly the members of Front of Islamic Revolution Stability, an Iranian principlist political group. They were elected to the Parliament on 26 February 2016.

Members of Assembly of Experts

Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi and Ahmad Alamolhoda are two members of the Iranian Assembly of Experts from Mashhad. Hashemi Shahroudi is currently First Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Assembly of Experts. [88] He was the Head of Iran's Judiciary from 1999 until 2009 who upon accepting his position, appointed Saeed Mortazavi, a well known fundamentalist and controversial figure during President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reelection, prosecutor general of Iran. [89] He was supported by Mashhad's reformists as the candidate of the Fifth Assembly on 26 February 2016.

City Council and mayor

In 2013, an Iranian principlist political group, Front of Islamic Revolution Stability (which is partly made up of former ministers of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi), [90] gained a landslide victory in Mashhad City Council, [91] which on 23 September 2013, elected Seyed Sowlat Mortazavi as mayor, who was former governor of the province of South Khorasan and the city of Birjand. [92] The municipality's budget amounted to 9600 billion Toman in 2015. [93]

Universities and colleges




Imam Reza Stadium Imam Reza Stadium 2.jpg
Imam Reza Stadium

Major sport teams

Shahr Khodro F.C.
Iran Pro League
Football Imam Reza Stadium
Siah Jamegan F.C.
Iran Pro League
Football Takhti Stadium
Samen Mashhad BC
Iranian Basketball Super League
Basketball Shahid Beheshti Sport Complex
Mizan Khorasan VC
Iranian Volleyball Super League
Volleyball Shahid Beheshti Sport Complex
Farsh Ara Mashhad FSC
Iranian Futsal Super League
Futsal Shahid Beheshti Sport Complex
Ferdosi Mashhad FSC
Iranian Futsal Super League
Futsal Shahid Beheshti Sport Complex
Rahahan Khorasan W.C.
Iranian Premier Wrestling League
Freestyle wrestling Mohammad Ali Sahraei Hall [94]

Other sports

City was host to 2009 Junior World Championships in sitting volleyball where Iran's junior team won Gold.

Mashhad City in the morning.jpg
Panoramic view of Mashhad from Koohsangi

Mashhad as capital of Persia and independent Khorasan

The following Shahanshahs had Mashhad as their capital:

Notable people from Mashhad and Tus

Religious and political figures
Writers and scientists
Sports figures

Twin towns – sister cities

Mashhad is twinned with: [95]




See also


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Preceded by
Capital of Iran (Persia)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Capital of Afsharid dynasty
Succeeded by