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 Iran's Khorasan province, Mashhad's year-round cool temperatures and faschinating insights into the Shi'ite heartland have much to offer visitors.
Mashhad started life out as Sanabad, a village pitstop for trade caravans headed towards [Turkmenistan]. But in the ninth century, the charismatic and popular spiritual leader Imam Reza was poisoned by a jealous caliph. Imam Reza was buried in Mashhad, and his shrine began to attract hordes of pilgrims.
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. The shrine now attracts millions of worshippers each year, and is second only to Mecca as a pilgrimage destination for Shi'ite Muslims.
Mashhad is reachable by train. There is an international airport as well.
Mashhad has three large bazaars. Interesting things to buy include Khorassan crafts, fur-cloak, jewlry, perfume, saffron, and religious souviners.
Mashhad attracts large number of visitors during several religious festivals as well as in the summer months, so be sure to make travel reservations in advance.