Mashhad (literally the place of martyrdom) is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the world. It is located close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its population is 2,868,350 people (2006).
Now Mashhad is notably known as the resting place of the Emam Reza. A shrine was later built there to commemorate the Emam, which in turn gave rise to increasing demographical development.
Today the holy shrine and its museum hold one of the most extensive cultural and artistic treasuries of Iran, in particular manuscript books and paintings. The second largest holy city in the world, Mashhad attracts more than 20 million tourists and pilgrims every year.
Long a center of secular as well as of religious learning, Mashhad has been a center for the arts and for the sciences. The large Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, named after the great Iranian poet, is located here.
Mashhad is also home to one of the oldest libraries of the Middle-East called the Central Library of Astan-e Quds Razavi with a history of over six centuries. The Astan-e Quds Razavi Museum, which is part of the Astan-e Quds Razavi Complex, is home to over 70,000 rare manuscripts from various historical eras. There are some six million historical documents in the foundation’s central library.
Apart from Emam Reza shrine there is a number of beautiful large parks, the tombs of historical celebrities in nearby Toos and Neyshabour, the tomb of Nader Shah and Kooh Sangi park and Mellat park that have modern attractions for children such as the biggest ferris wheel or fanfar in Iran and Koohestan park complex that includes a zoo, where many wild animals are kept and which attracts many visitors to Mashhad. Among the other sights are the tomb of the great poet Ferdowsi in Toos, 24 kilometers distance.