Mashhad

We left Ashgabat by bus, and crossed into Iran at the Loftabad - Artyk border crossing. We then picked up a (useless) Iranian guide who had no idea on the route or places to stop for meals. Anyway we eventually got to Mashad

Mashad is the second most populous city in Iran. 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. It was a major oasis along the ancient Silk Road connecting with Merv in the East.

Tourists go to Mashhad to see the Shrine, and that is why we were there.

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Imam Reza Shrine

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. The Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid is also buried within the shrine.The shrine has been the centre of some violence over the last century.

The Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad is a complex which contains the mausoleum of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Twelver Shiites. It is the largest mosque in the world by dimension and the second largest by capacity. Also contained within the complex are the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, four seminaries, a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, vast prayer halls, and other buildings. The complex is one of the tourism centres in Iran. It is very large and covers an area of 600,000 m2

I have a fuller write up from our previous visit to the shrine. Our previous visit was more informative. This time our (rather poor) local guide was having a spat with the local mosque guide and the net result was that we saw virtually nothing during this visit. Instead we walked randomly between courtyards and understood little of the place. Jude was not with us a another group member did not want to come into the shrine and Jude stayed with her. Chris instructed me to back off any further efforts to get the local guide to see reason. I was really, really disappointed with this visit.

 

Abedin Zadhe Restaurant for lunch and even a cup of coffee here - we tended to get a bit excited if we came across cups of proper coffee.

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Pardisan Hotel

A once 5 star hotel, has drifted down in what it supplies because of lack of maintenance. Really everything about it is middle of the road. Service, rooms, food.

Its main advantage is that it is easily accessible if you are coming from the airport as we were. In other words it is not in the centre of the city, so avoids some of the heavy traffic We did not need to use it, but I think that the hotel provides a shuttle to the Holy Shrine - you would need to ask before you book if you need it. So, it is a fairly innocuous choice for Mashhad with nothing really good and nothing really bad. Given that as I write this, that it is ~11 of 22 hotels in Mashhad, I think if I was coming to Mashhad again, then I would look at the other 10 options above it on the recommendations.

The (useless) local guide prevailed on all the group, except me, to have their photo taken with a propaganda banner with arabic writing of uncertain meaning. As I said to Jude, MI6's file on me is large enough as it is without them having items like this photo

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So after a not too successful day in Mashhad we headed by plane for Tehran

On to next town - Tehran

Back to Overall Itinerary for Silk Road Trip 2016