Mashhad is the second most populous city in Iran and capital of Razavi Khorasan Province. It is located in the northeast of the country, close to the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Its population was 2,749,374 at the 2011 census and its built-up (or metro) area was home to 2,782,976 inhabitants including Mashhad Taman and Torqabeh cities. It was a major oasis along the ancient Silk Road connecting with Merv in the East.
The city is most famous and revered for housing the tomb of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. Every year, millions of pilgrims visit the Imam Reza shrine and pay their tributes to Imam Reza.
Mashhad is also known as the city of Ferdowsi, the Iranian poet of Shahnameh, which is considered to be the national epic of Iran. The city is the hometown of some of the most significant Iranian literary figures and artists such as Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, the famous contemporary poet, and Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, the traditional Iranian singer and composer. Ferdowsi and Akhavan Sales are both buried in Tus, an ancient city that is considered to be the main origin of the current city of Mashhad.
Geography and Demographics
The city is located at 36.20º North latitude and 59.35º East longitude, in the valley of the Kashafrud River near Turkmenistan, between the two mountain ranges of Binalood and Hezar Masjed Mountains. The city benefits from the proximity of the mountains, having cool winters, pleasant springs, mild summers, and beautiful autumns. It is only about 250 km (160 mile) from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
The city is the administrative center of Mashhad County (or the Shahrestan of Mashhad) as well as the somewhat smaller district (Bakhsh) of Mashhad. The city itself, excluding parts of the surrounding Bakhsh and Shahrestan, is divided into 13 smaller administrative units, with a total population of more than 3 million.
The vast majority of Mashhadi people are ethnic Persians, who form the majority of the city's population. Other ethnic groups include Kurdish and Turkmen people who have immigrated recently to the city from the North Khorasan province. There is also a significant community of non-Arabic speakers of Arabian descent who have assimilated with the Persian culture and no longer speak their own language although they have retained a distinct Arabian culture, cuisine and religious practices. The people from Mashhad who look East Asians are of Turkmen, Hazara or Uyghur ancestry or indeed a combination of all other ethnic groups as racial mixing has been widely practiced in this region since antiquity. Estimates put the number of East Asian looking people from Mashhad close to 33%, i.e. one in three people.
Among the non-Iranians, there are immigrant population of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The Afghan immigrants have several neighborhoods around the city. One of the districts inhabited by Afghan immigrants is Golshahr. There are also over 20 million pilgrims who visit the city every year