Mashhad (Persian: مشهد ), also spelled Mashad or Meshad, is the second most populous city in Iran and the capital of Khorasan-e Razavi Province. It is located in the northeast of the country, near the borders with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. It has a population of 3,001,184 (2016 census), which includes the areas of Mashhad Taman and Torqabeh. 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 afterwards 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 Imam Reza's martyrdom), Iran's then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Mashhad to be "Iran's spiritual capital"
Etymology and early history
The name Mashhad comes from Arabic, meaning a martyrium. 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.
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.
At the beginning of the 9th century (3rd century AH), Mashhad was a small village 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. 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.
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 industries, clothing, leather, textiles, chemicals, steel and non-metallic mineral industries, construction materials factories, the handicraft industry, and the metal industries.
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. 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.
The divorce rate in Mashhad had increased by 35 percent by 2014. Khorasan and Mashhad ranked the second in violence across the country in 2013
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.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.
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 Afghanistan, 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.
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.
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.
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