Mashhad is Iran’s holiest and second biggest city. Its raison d’être and main sight is the beautiful, massive and ever-growing Haram (shrine complex) commemorating the AD 817 martyrdom of Shia Islam’s eighth Imam, Imam Reza. The pain of Imam Reza’s death is still felt very personally over a millennium later and around 20 million pilgrims converge here each year to pay their respects (and no small amount of money) to the Imam. Witnessing their tears is a moving experience, even if you’re not a Muslim yourself. If you notice a lot of lovey young couples, that’s because the city’s also a haven for honeymooners, who believe sharing it with the Imam will bless their marriage. Away from the Haram Complex there are few sights, but Mashhad is a good place to buy carpets, it’s a natural staging post for travel to Turkmenistan or Afghanistan, and offers many interesting excursions into little-touristed Khorasan.