Even if you are not Muslim, travel to Mashhad and visit Imam Reza Shrine to feel a strong and different spiritual sense. The shrine has a tranquil ambiance, even if it’s really crowded all day round. The whole 267,079 square meters structure is rich in art and carving.
For many years it was forbidden for non-Muslims to see the core (the most interesting and historical yard). However, during the working hours translator-guides are available there and approach you if they notice you’re European. (ask for free English translator from the touristic center or the security guard) If you go there after midnight it’s a pure experience and no checks for non-Muslims.
The shrine is a complex consists of a shrine with all its belongings-dome, finial, Riwaq, Bast, courtyards, porches, mosques, Saqakhaneh-which is usual in Islamic architecture, and museums collecting Quran, carpet, coin, weapon and so on.
This historic architectural complex accompanies unique and distinctive ethics and rituals to be known as an inseparable heritage of the complex and the complicated culture of its wider setting. In fact, the genuine values of the heritage associates not only with its magnificent architecture and structural system but also with all the rituals, all together implicating the unique spiritual spirit of Imam Reza.
The ritual of changing the flags holds every year on the eve of the birthday anniversary of Imam Reza. The shrine is crowded but it might be amazing to watch from near.
Dusting is an other oldest rituals of Astane-e Qods with 500 years of constant continuation which on the event of specific occasions performs with particular formalities. As well as playing Naqareh (a specific wind instrument) in various events and times. Of other rituals, the sweeping, Waqf, granting free food and services to assist others and the mankind, various types of citing, etc. can be mentioned.
Between Shia Twelvers (Shias who believe in twelve imams after Muhammad), Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha is the 8th Imam who was buried in Tous where then changed name to Mashhad al-Ridha (the place of martyrdom of al-Ridha”). In 818, Imam Ali al-Ridha was murdered by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun. After his burial, many buildings, bazaars and hotels are sprang up around the grave.
Best time to visit the shrine
Imam Reza shrine host pilgrimages coming mostly from Iran, Iraq and other Shia Muslim countries. It’s usually crowded all year round specially during the national holidays (Persian new year, Birth and death day of Imam and so on). It’s highly recommended to avoid traveling during these year while Iranians are present in mass there.
And during the day, try to visit the shrine at night if you don’t seek to explore the museums.
When is Imam Reza Holy Shrine open?
Its open 24 hours. You can go there and relaxing your mind as much as you want to.
What hotels are near Imam Reza Holy Shrine?
Variety of hotels for all budgets are available in Mashhad. Some of the most luxury hotels are Darvishi Hotel (a skyscraper with a fantastic view of the shrine), Almas II Hotel (one of the nearest luxury hotels to Imam Reza Holy Shrine with only 5 minutes walking), Madinat Al Reza Hotel (the closest 5-star hotel to the holy shrine), and Qasr International Hotel are some of them.
What restaurants are near Imam Reza Holy Shrine?
Well, you cannot eat inside the complex and you cannot bring any food either. But as mentioned before, the complex is in the heart of the city and you can find a great number of shops and restaurants around the holy shrine. Some of the great restaurants in Mashhad are Pesaran-e Karim Restaurants, Olive Garden, Chelokababi Omid, Moeindarbari Restaurant, and Lio Italian Restaurant.