Population: 2.9 million
Iran’s second largest city and most important pilgrimage center – over 12 million visit each year. The province of Khorasan once incorporated areas of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and has long been a center of art and scholarship. It is the homeland of many great Iranian poets and writers.
The areas recent history is associated with the Afshar dynasty (1736-47) and many historic monuments date from this period.
As a place of pilgrimage Mashhad is the place of the death (many believe martyrdom) of the eighth Shi’ite Imam, Imam Reza who died (was murdered) here in 818. Mashhad – place of Martyrdom – was the name given to his tomb.
The city’s population increased dramatically in the 1980s as refugees fled east during the Iran-Iraq war.