Mahshad, the capital of the immense Province of Khorasan and the second largest city in Iran, has for centuries been an important trade center and junction point on caravan routes and highways from India to Iran. Mashad grew around the legendary martyrdom of Imam Reza, and the city’s history is inextricably linked with that of his Shrine. Mashhad is located 850 kilometers to the north-east of Tehran and has population of over 2 million. Mashhad is a tourist city with many hotels of various categories as well as a great number of guest-houses for the pilgrims who come to this city from the other parts of the country everyday by tens of flights, trains and buses. The city's climatic condition is varied with very cold winters, pleasant springs, usually mild summers and beautiful autumns.
Originally the city was known as Sanabad, a small village in the north of Persia. All changed when in the 9th century A.D., Imam Reza was poisoned and martyred in the city. He was the eighth Imam (head spiritual leader) of Shi'ate Islam. After his death, pilgrims came and ended up staying in Mashhad. His holy position made his tomb a sacred place for pilgrims to worship. Millions of people make pilgrimage to the holy shrine, undoubtedly the largest and most magnificent of its kind, every year. There are plenty of priceless objects and unique manuscripts in the shrine's library. In the 16th century, three Safavid Dynasty rulers established Shi'ite Islam for the whole territory. The shrine was restored and enlarged. These rulers made pilgrimages to the site and since then it has become the most holy Shi'ite pilgrimage in Iran.