Mashad, Toos, and Neyshabur

Mashad with a population of 3 million is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shi'a world. It is also the second largest holy city in the world, it attracts more than 20 million tourists and pilgrims every year, most of whom come to pay homage to the tomb of Imam Reza (the eighth Shi'ite Imam).

Toos is an ancient city not far from Mashad. Ferdowsi, one of the most revered Persian poets lived in Toos. He was the author of the Shah-Nameh, the national epic of Persia. Caliph Harun al-Rashid is said to be buried in Toos.

On the Silk Road, Neyshabur has often defined the flexible frontier between the Iranian plateau and Central Asia. For a time it rivaled Baghdad and Cairo. Nearby are the turquoise mines that supplied the world with turquoise for at least two millennia. Neyshabur is home to many poets and cultural celebrities. The poet Omar Khayym was born in Neyshabur in 1048 and is buried a few miles outside the town.

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After the pilgrimage, move to some unholy places.