So we managed to get on the overnight bus to Mashhad. A 16 hour ride through the desert. We only went through one small oasis town on the way.

Mashhad is located in a corner of the world that has always mystified me. Khorosan. The name means 'land where the sun rises', or 'eastern land'. It is situated in the far northeastern corner of Iran, near the border with Afghanistan and just south of the Kopet Dagh mountains. It is famous for having Irans most holy site for Shia Muslims; the shrine of Imam Reza who was martyred in 818 AD. We were only passing through on our way out of Iran. Our Iranian visas were due to expire and we had an appointment with our official tour guide who would meet us on the other side of the Turkmenistan border in a couple of days time.

Bus. Yaabo! Goudzilla!

At a petrol station a weather-beaten Ayatollah watches over us.

We finally arrived in Mashhad in the morning, found a hotel and slept for most of the day. I think we went out in the evening and looked around a little bit. I started looking at Persian carpets and was thinking about buying one. A salesman invited me into his shop and we began to talk about carpets. This went on for a very long time. Ruth and Hannah left me there and went somewhere else. I didn't make a purchase but by the time I got away it was about ten o'clock at night and I was worried I wouldn't be able to find any place to go and eat. We set out to find one of the restaurants recommended in out guidebook. It was a beautiful restaurant in a traditional Persian teahouse style (Chaikhana). It was decorated with frescoes of characters and events from the epic legends of the Shahname (Book of Kings). The Shahname was written by Ferdowsi. He was appointed by the Shah to write this compendium of Persian history in legendary form at the time shortly after the Arab conquest as a means of preserving Persian culture and identity for future generations in the face of mass Islamisation. The stories are beautiful and massively popular with Iranians today. The legends of the Shahname are a pillar of Iranian cultural identity.

We ate a delicious meal of aubergine and walnut custard.

The next day we walked about a bit. Here is a photo of a Mashhad street. Other than the shrine of the Imam Reza there isn't a great deal to see in Mashhad.

Mashhad street scene.

One of the entrances to the shrine complex. The shrine complex is huge and is still being built. It's not a tourist attraction. Non Muslims aren't allowed into the important inner shrine complex. No photos are allowed to be taken inside and no bags can be taken in. We just walked 'round the outside of it and left Imam Reza for his true pilgrims.

Reza inherited the status of Imam 8th Imam after his father Musa, the 7th Imam, was killed in a Baghdad Jail by the Abbasid Sunni Caliph Haroun. Following Haroun's death his sons Ma'mun and Amin fought a war over the succession. Ma'mun based in Merv, in the Karakum Desert to the north, won but needed Rezas help to put down a wave of revolts. Reza refused and Ma'mun had his men drag Reza through the rebellious regions as a show of power. But the charismatic presence of the Imam Reza captivated the royal court and Ma'mun, percieving Reza as a threat poisoned him and tried to cover it up with an honorary funeral in Mashhad.

Looking in through the entrance to the shrine complex. See the great big gold plated domes and minarets! The place is huge!

People coming out.

A Persian carpet. This one was being offered at $800 USD.

No comments:

Post a Comment