Located at an elevation of 985 m in the valley of the Kashaf River, near Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.
It is an important political and religious centre, visited annually by more than 100,000 pilgrims.
One of the largest cities in Iran, Population (1991) 1,759,155. It is an important transportation, commercial, manufacturing, and religious center situated in a productive agricultural region.
Carpet manufacturing, based on local wool supplies, is a traditional industry; other products include textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and processed food.
The burial place and shrine of the early 9th-century religious leader Ali ar-Rida, regarded by Shiite Muslims as one of Iran's holiest places, draws many tourists and pilgrims every year. The grave of the caliph Harun ar-Rashid is also in the shrine.
Mashhad is the most important and popular holy city of Islam in Iran. Every year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit Mashhad. Central in this pilgrimage is the tomb of the eighth imam Ali r-Rida, who died here in 818 (then known as Tus). Pilgrims coming to Mashhad has the right of free maintenance for three days. The activities around the tomb resembles hajj in some respect, with circumambulations around it, and three times cursing all enemies of the imam. Other prominent figures are buried in Mashhad, too. Harunu r-Rashid fell mortally sick and died after few days, on a campaign towards Khurasan. This was in 809. In 818 the caliph designate died here, too.
Mashhad gained prominence as a religious center in the 9th century. Shah Abbas I (reigned 1588-1629) beautified the city, and it prospered under Nadir Shah as the capital of a great Iranian empire.
Mashhad University (1956) was established here, and the ruins of the ancient city of Tus are nearby.
Masshad is a centre for a sizeable region, which it serves through transport, commerce, manufacturing, producing traditional carpets from local wool supplies, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and processed food.
The city is linked by rail with Tehran and has an airport.
Major cities near Mashhad: