Mashad began as a small village called Sanabad. In 817 the eighth grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, Imam Reza, died here suddenly on a journey. Word spread that he had been poisoned, and pilgrims began arriving at his burial site, renaming the city Mashad, meaning “Place of Martyrdom.” The Imam’s tomb has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, and is now one of the holiest Shi’ite shrines in Iran, visited by 12 million Shi’a Muslims a year.
The “Holy Precinct,” or Haram-e Motahar, is a beautiful circular complex surrounded by a boulevard, and is composed of Imam Reza’s Tomb, several madrassahs, spacious courtyards, blue-tiled and copper-clad domes, libraries and minarets. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the tomb or the 15th century Great Mosque of Gohar Shad, but can admire the gilded domes and tiled portals of the exteriors. Three museums are open to non-Muslims – the Main Museum, filled with art and fabulous artifacts, the Carpet Museum and the Koran Museum.
PUBLISHED: July 8, 2014