Before Iran’s provincial divisions, even long before that, Khorasan was always referred to as the Great. It was almost always the largest province and the border between Persian and non-Persians. The Transoxiana region, now home to countries such as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan has played a major role in Iran’s destiny, from mythical epiphanies to historical reality. This region was the gate through many invasions like Turkmens and the Mongols, but before that is was where the Aryan tribes entered Iran, and I guess the whole story started from that point.
How important Khorasan was, it became very famous, a pantheon for pilgrims, a haven for those seeking refuge and mostly those who look for divinity beyond measures, because not so long after Arabs attacked Iran, the Abbasid Caliphate in its glorious peak choose a city in the center of Khorasan as one of their capitals.
The sacredness of Mashhad starts with the eighth Imam of Shia, Reza, who migrated there from Madinah and was forced to accept the role of a crown prince. Al-Mamun, Calipha of the time feared Reza’s popularity and eventually killed him. After such a crime, people changed the name of the city to Mashhad which means a place where someone has been martyred.
Mashhad is located in the basin of Kashafrud River and the plains of Mount Binalud. After Iran became officially Shia, all kings and governors, paid a great deal of attention toward Mashhad because of its holy Shrine, therefore it gradually expanded and prospered. It became the capital of all Iran under Nader Shah’s supervision.
Nowadays, Mashhad, with an area of 351 square kilometers and a population of over 3 million people is the second-largest metropolis in Iran. Afghani, Iraqi and other immigrants are included in the city’s population. In 2009, Mashhad was formally selected and introduced as Iran’s Spiritual Capital.
Mashhad or better to say Khorasan has many mines and valuable stones are extracted from them. Thereby, there are many artistic ways innovated by the people of Khorasan to decorate almost anything with these stones or make something special out of them. Stone carving is very popular in Mashhad and also the artists who perform such an art, are well mastered in what they do.
Igneous black stones are called serpentine and the most beautiful of them all are turquoise. The existence of turquoise mines in the city of Nishapur has led to the emergence of the turquoise industry in this city and Razavi Khorasan province. The industry dates back to 6000 years ago. Nishapur turquoise is one of the high-quality turquoises in the world.
Now, where to see when we go to Mashhad:
Goharshad Mosque was built in 821 AH by the order of Lady Goharshad the wife of Shah Rukh Timuri and by the hand of Ghavamuddin Shirazi on the south side of the holy shrine of Imam Reza. In the reign of Shah Rukh, after the crushing invasions of the Mongols and Tamerlane, Iran started a sort of Renaissance by honoring poets and scientific figures, artists and writers, paying attention to enriching the burned libraries and aesthetics aspects of a city.
The mosque is a masterpiece and consists of a courtyard, four porches, a turquoise dome, two garlands, and seven naves. Brick walls, dome-shaped arches, breathtaking muqarnas, mosaics, plaster, various patterns, exquisite tiling, etc. have been used artistically.
Tomb of Nader Shah
To write about Nader Shah would be to write a dozen pages of Iran’s history, from a brave bold, strategic general to a mad man who was killed by his battalion. What he did, that Iran still thanks him for was to save Iran from the horrible raid of Afghans. He fought hard and pushed them back with his high knowledge of war and also with the power of political negotiation he mage agreements and contracts with the Ottoman Empire which all ended in Iran’s favor. But, somewhere on the road, maybe due to all the pressure he felt, he lost his mind and turned even on his son. At last, his bad temper was his undoing.
In 1957, with the association of the National Museum of Iran, in honor of Nader Shah’s character (before his madness), they designed a news tomb with a monument to remember him. Hooshang Seyhoun, one of the famous architects of that time, was in charge of the constructions.
Kuh-Sangi Park is one of the largest and oldest parks in Mashhad. This park was used as a natural summer and recreation center outside the city of Mashhad. You could climb up its rocks to get a clear view of the whole city.
Haj Hossein Malek, the son of Haj Kazem Malek ol-Tojar, was one of the famous and well-known figures of Mashhad. He has dedicated a lot of his personal property to the public. One of them was Vakilabad Garden. Mashhad Municipality turned it into a forest park. The presence of ancient trees such as sycamore, cypress, pine, numerous streams, and seasonal rivers made this garden unique.
One of the tourist attractions of Mashhad is Torqabeh. A place that because of its perfect climate, beautiful autumn, and springs, has many visitors and it’s very popular. Torqabeh has located 18 km from Mashhad in the valleys of Mount Binalud.
For those who love walking, the river park is the best place. In this park, parallel to the Torqabeh River, there is a paved sidewalk. And to get acquainted with local souvenirs of Mashhad, like dried fruit, black Kashk, and fresh Jujubes.
Shandiz is located 15 km away from Mashhad and is yet another place to cool off when the summer heat starts to bother you. It’s beautiful valleys with roaring rivers, and many facilities such as restaurants in the middle of green towering trees call many visitors to itself.
Tomb of Ferdowsi
Once again, to write about Ferdowsi is to write about Iran itself! He single-handedly saved the Persian language and devoted his whole life to gather all information on Iran’s ancient and mythical history and turned them all into Persian verses. He could be compared with Homer of Greece. He lived in Tus and died there but no one like him was ever immortal. As to leave behind one 6000 verses of perfect literature, storytelling, creating heroic figures, and setting high standards of moralities such as honor, fidelity, trust, and wisdom.
In 1969, Hooshang Seyhoun designed a memorial tomb for Ferdowsi, and later on around its garden celebrated poets like Mehdi Akhavan-Sales and Iran’s national music figure, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian was buried there.
Nishapur is the second-largest city of Razavi Khorasan and one of the oldest cities in Iran. From its name, historians say that Shapur I built this city. Nishapur was considered one of the centers of Persian civilization and culture and suffered a massive massacre when Genghis Khan descended upon it.
Nishapur has been the birthplace and residence of magnificent people such as Attar, Omar Khayyam, Dr. Shafiei Kadkani (poet, literature professor of Tehran University), and Parviz Meshkatian (Musician).
Tomb of Khayyam of Nishapur
One of the famous poets of Iran is Hakim Omar bin Khayyam, while the world knows him for his very unique gift as a poet, he was also a mathematician and a perfect physicist who created the Triangular array long before Pascal did. He also adjusted the Persian calendar which is the most accurate calendar in the world.
As well as other historical tombs, Hoohang Seyhoun took over the design of Khayyam’s as well.
Tomb of Attar of Nishapur
Sufism has seven steps to take. Attar composed these seven steps beautifully through the Persian language and its powerful literature potential. From that place, he also wrote books about famous Sufis and their lives.
A short distance from Attar Mausoleum lies the tomb of Iran’s legendary painter Kamal-ol-Molk. Both of Attar and Kamal-ol-Molk’s tombs were designed and built by no other than Hooshang Seyhoun. The harmony of these two tombs in design emphasizes the values of Iranian culture.