Mashahd is a city in the North-East of the country and the center Khorasan Razavi Province. It is the second biggest and most populated city of Iran after Tehran, and known for the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Shiite Imam. The city has cold winters and hot and dry summers. People speak Farsi with Mashhadi accent that is filled with words that have ancient roots. Mashhad was chosen as the Spiritual Capital of Iran in 2009 and the Islamic Culture Capital in 2017.
Mashhad means the place of Martyrdom, and the name refers to the death of Imam Reza in the city. The city came to be known with this name around Safavid time when the destruction of other important city, and immigration of people to this place made it a leading city in the North-East of the country. Before that, two cities of Tous and Sanabad, located in the region, were considered the main cities of area.
The city of Tous has ancient history. Its name is often found in historic and literary text. It is a city where the Yazdegerd III escaped to when he was defeated by the Arabs, only to be rejected and sent away to Marv. Constant wars and attacks on the land turn the city of Tous to ruins, and people slowly move to nearing cities like Sanabad that is close to Imam Reza Holy Shrine. The importance of the Shrine among Iranian makes the rulers to make developments in it in hope of getting legitimacy and popularity among people. Gradually, the Shrine becomes a strong construct with fortification and several additional buildings. That is the reason why people take shelter there in time of attacks and wars.
The city of Tous is destroyed after a long siege by the Timurid. With the complete destruction of nearby cities, people made the new city around the Holy Shrine. In this time, Timurid kings ordered the construction of buildings like mosques to be added to the Shrine. When the Shiite Safavid took the throne, Shiite became the official religion of the country, and the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza became more and more important. The city developed drastically and the pilgrims that came to visit the shrine make the city richer and more prosperous.
Nader Shah of Afsharid tribe chose Mashhad as his capital. The city experiences its zenith both in size and economic flourishment. In Qajar time, Mashhad had six main neighborhoods, one main street that divided the city to two parts and a water channel passed through it.
The people of Mashhad have always had an active part in political protests. When the Tobacco Contract was signed, people of Mashhad were among the first to sanction it, and they were also influential in Constitutional Revolution. Although after the revolution, they were suppressed and murdered, mostly because of interference of Russians. In recent years, modernization in Mashhad has taken a new turn and is planned to become one of the main destinations in Islamic cities with unique architectural feature, facilities and entertainments.