Haram-e Razavi

Top choice in Mashhad

Imam Reza’s Holy Shrine is enveloped in a vast series of sacred precincts collectively known as the Haram-e Razavi, or Haram for short. This magical city-within-a-city sprouts dazzling clusters of domes and minarets in blue and pure gold behind fountain-cooled courtyards and magnificent arched arcades. It’s one of the marvels of the Islamic world, and it's worth savouring its moods and glories more than once by visiting at different times of day.

Compare the orderly overload of dusk prayer-time to the fairy-tale calm of a floodlit nocturnal wander. And take time to visit the complex's trio of eclectic museums, filled with bequests and donations from the faithful.

No bags or cameras are allowed within the complex (although snapping photos with mobile phones appears to be perfectly acceptable). There are left-luggage offices near most entrances. Men and women enter through different carpet-draped portals and are politely frisked. Women must wear a chador but at most gates there is a stock to borrow for the unprepared. For either sex it's important to dress in suitably clean, conservative clothing.

Non-Muslims are allowed in most of the Haram’s outer courtyards, but they're not allowed inside the complex’s two holiest buildings, the Holy Shrine and the Gohar Shad Mosque, or the magnificent Enqelab and Azadi courtyards.

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1. Imam Khomeini Ravagh

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All a-dazzle with intricate, mirror-faceted tiling, this former courtyard is now enclosed and entirely covered by a sparkling ceiling held in place by…

2. Azim-e Gohar Shad

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Exploring the Haram you might glimpse the 50m blue dome and cavernous golden portal of this classic Timurid mosque, built from 1405 to 1418. Unfortunately…

4. Carpet Museum

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Arguably the Haram's best museum. Rugs displayed here range from beautiful classics through to garish coral gardens and a Tabriz-made carpet-portrait of…

5. Central Museum


This eclectic museum kicks off with chunks of now-superseded shrine decor interspersed with contemporary sporting medals presented by pious athletes,…

6. Holy Shrine

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Amid tearful prayer and meditation, the climax to any Mashhad pilgrimage is touching and kissing the zarih (gold-latticed cage), which covers Imam Reza’s…