Mashhad originally developed as a pilgrimage center after the eighth Shi'ite Islamic imam, Reza, died and was buried (ninth century c.e.) in what then was a small village containing the tomb of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. The village began to develop as a trade center renamed Mashhad, or "place of the martyr," during the fourteenth century, after the Mongols had destroyed the ancient city of Tus, located 15 miles to the northwest of what is now central Mashhad. Its growth was slowed, however, by the general insecurity that prevailed in this region until the nineteenth century.
After 1850, Mashhad developed as a major transshipment center for the overland trade between Iran and Russia and Iran and British India. The Qajar dynasty shahs expended funds on the embellishment and expansion of the shrine to Imam Reza (originally built during the early fifteenth century), including its affiliated seminary and other religious institutions. During the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi the city was rebuilt with a ring road around the shrine and wide avenues.
Mashhad began to develop as an important industrial center during the 1930s, initially with carpet and textile manufacturing; by the end of the 1990s, food processing, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals also were significant industries. Its importance as a transportation center is enhanced by air, rail, and road connections to Tehran and the rest of Iran.
In 1996 the railway to Turkmenistan was inaugurated; this connected to the main railroad system through the Central Asian republics. Ferdowsi University, established in 1947, provides undergraduate and graduate education in agriculture, art, economics, law, medicine, social sciences, and technology. The Imam Reza shrine continues to be the major tourist site in Iran, attracting several hundred thousand visitors annually. Mashhad is now the second largest city in the country, having grown from a medium-sized city of 147,000 in 1947 to a metropolis of 1,887,405 in 1996.
NaderShah Afshr Tomb
Nabat (Suger plant)