Mashhad

Imam Reza shrine

Almost everything about Mashhad relates to its role as the holiest city in Iran, even its name (literally: burial place of the martyr). As the capital of Iran's Khorasan province, Mashhad's year-round cool temperatures and fascinating insights into the Shi'ite heartland have much to offer visitors.

Understand

Mashhad started life out as Sanabad, a village pitstop for trade caravans headed towards Turkmenistan. But in the ninth century, the eighth Shi'ite Imam Ali Bin Moosa Al Reza, the great grand son of Imam Ali who was the cousin & son in law of Prophet Mohammad was poisoned by the jealous caliph of the time. Imam Reza was buried in Mashhad, and his shrine became one of the holiest sites to the shi'ite Muslims after the Holy Kaaba in Saudi Arabia and Karbala in Iraq.

Over the next thousand years, the shrine complex was levelled, ransacked and rebuilt a number of times depending on the ruling army of the day. Today the Shrine is the most important place in the city and in the whole of Iran.

Dress code for women is strict, as it is in any part of Iran, however a self encompassing chador is not a must for any lady in public place in city. For women, a simple headscarf or roo-sari, with a trenchcoat and pants are fine. Men are also not allowed to wear shorts. These rules are the same for any and all cities and villages in Iran; it is national law.

Get in

By air

  Mashhad International Airport (Shahid Hashemi Nejad Airport) (IATA: MHD) is located just a few kilometres South of the city centre. A taxi from the Holy Shrine area to the airport should not cost more than 150,000 Rials.

Being Iran's second largest city, Mashhad is connected to all Iranian cities that have an airport. On the busier routes, there are several options per day. However, during the peak season(s) of pilgrimage, tickets sell out early.

Mashhad is also connected internationally, as it features on the timetables of all the larger Middle Eastern airlines. There are flights to Bahrain, Damascus, Dubai, Kuwait, Bishkek, Beirut, Jeddah, Dushanbe, Kabul, Doha, Almaty, Lahore and Istanbul.

By train

The   railway station is located just North of the Holy Shrine area. There are several regular trains from Mashhad to Tehran, both day trains and overnight trains. They vary in speed, price and quality, the fastest do the trip in 8 hours. There are night trains to Isfahan (one or two per day, 18 hours) and many other destinations.

You get here from Turkmenistan. There are trains from Ashgabat and Merv to the Sarakhs border. And at the other side of the border there is a daily train from the Sarakhs border to Mashhad.

By bus

There are mostly night buses to Mashhad from other important cities. There are NO international buses from Ashgabat or anywhere in Turkmenistan.

Get around

Mashhad has a rapid transit system, which opened in 2012.

See

Tomb of Nader Shah

Apart from Imam Reza shrine there is a number of large parks, the tombs of historical celebrities in nearby Tus and Nishapur, the tomb of Nadir Shah and Kooh Sangi park and Mellat Park that have modern attractions for children such as the tallest Ferris wheel or fanfar in Iran and Koohestan Park-e-Shadi Complex that 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 kilometers 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 kilometers 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 kilometers 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.

Money

A few   money changers line up on Imam Khomeini Blvd., this is where rates are competitive. Hotels change at much worse rates, if at all.

If Mashhad is your first station in Iran, you may consider getting an Iranian ATM to prevent having your money stolen. The state-owned Bank-e Melli-ye Iran provides such a service for tourists who visit Iran. Tourists just need to head the nearest branch of this bank. Information on this service can be found here. The drawback is that the card expires the date your visa expires (mind this point if you extend your visa) and that you hand your Euros or Dollars to the bank who converts it to Rial at the government rate. This is by far lower than what you receive from money changers. So your safety comes at a price.

Another way to prevent having your money stolen, is going to the nearest bank and getting a gift card. They are exactly like ordinary ATM debit cards, but once they get empty, they cannot be recharged. Sepah Bank or Bank -e- Sepah is a governmental bank that has a current account service for foreigners which provides both ATM debit card and cheque writing option. A list of permitted Iranian banks can be found here

Buy

Saffron costs $2200 per kilogram

Mashhad has three large bazaars. Interesting things to buy include Khorassan crafts, fur-cloak, jewelry, perfume, saffron, and religious souvenirs.

Learn

Eat

Iranian cuisine is one of the best in the world. They do not eat spicy food but even then their food is very tasty. Chello Kebab is a very popular dish as well as Bakhtiari Kebab. There are also different kinds of breads available. So eating will be an assured good and affordable experience in Mashhad

You can find lots of great restaurants and all kinds of fast-foods are available. The most advertised restaurant of Mashhad (and one of the most expensive) is 'Padide Shandiz'. There are also numerous other decent restaurants in Shandiz. Full meals with rice cost from 5 to 20 dollars.

Padide Shandiz address: Shandiz town.

You can find a kind of ice-cream named ice pack "Persian: آیس پک" in mashhad. it's really great to taste it. There are lots of Ice Pack bars in Mashhad. The main one is placed at "Shariati Sqr". This kind of ice-cream can be found with all kinds of flavors like "chocolate , apple , cherry , strawberry , coffee , peach and all kind of fruits you can imagine" This type of ice-cream invented in Iran, is even getting popular in the United States of America.

  Hezardestan Traditional Teahouse, Jannat (جنت) street (in a parallel street to Modarres Blvd. Jannat street is a pedestrian zone. There is a huge Lonely Planet advertisement on the wall opposite to the restaurant so it is hard to miss.). Very beautifully decorated subterranean restaurant. The menu comprises (only) four dishes (Chicken Kebab, Dizi, Ghormeh, mashed eggplant) which are very well done and are served with lots of side dishes. Service is lame, however, bring enough time. Base charge for tea = 150,000 Rials. Meals 250,000 to 470,000 Rials.

Sleep

Mashhad attracts huge number of visitors specially during the summer months, so be sure to make travel reservations in advance. Mashhad can also be very cold during winters, hence heavy woolens are required during winters. Even in summers nights are pretty cold and requires light woolens.

Hotels

Five-star hotels in the city are: Pars Hotel, Ghasr Talaee international Hotel, Ghasr International Hotel and Pardisan Hotel. There are also couple of good hotels near the Imam Ali Bin Moosa Al Reza Shrine, namely Khayyam Hotel, Ghadir International to name a few. The Shrine is 10 min. walk from the Khayyam Hotel and the rent for double bedroom with attached bath is around 100-120 USD per night. but the rent for Ghasr Talaee Hotel is very expensive about 400 USD per night. But there are lots of rooms for rent around the shrine which are pretty cheap and suitable to rent, they are ranged from 30-90 USD per night depending on the distance from shrine.

Homestays

Stay safe

Emergency services phone numbers

Go next

Inside Iran

You can easily use ground transportation and visit these ancient cities in a short period of time:

To Turkmenistan

Since no public transportation goes across the Turkmen border, to get to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, the following option is the most convenient:

To Afghanistan

Herat in Afghanistan is only a few hundred kilometers from here.

Visas and permits

Following countries have Consulate in Mashad:

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 13, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.