Mashhad: A Hub of Tourism and Pilgrimage

A Hub of Tourism and Pilgrimage
A Hub of Tourism and Pilgrimage

Religious tourism is a type of tourism, where people who travel are motivated either exclusively or in part by religious reasons. According to the World Tourism Organization, an estimated 330 million pilgrims visit the world's key religious sites every year.

The world's largest mass religious tourism takes place at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. 

The most famous holy cities are Mecca, Madinah (Saudi Arabia), Echmiadzin (Armenia), Karbala (Iraq), Beit-ul-Moqqadas (occupied Palestine), and Varanasi (India). The most famous holy sites are the Ka'ba, Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Imam Husain (AS) Shrine, Church of the Nativity, the Dome of the Rock, and the Brahma Temple in Pushkar, respectively.

Religious tourism has existed since antiquity.  However, modern religious tourists are more able now to visit holy cities and holy sites around the world. North American religious tourists comprise an estimated $10 billion of the industry.

In Iran

A bulk of international tourists to Iran have religious purposes. The country, being the resting place of two prominent Shia Islam figures, Imam Reza (AS)-the eighth Imam of Shias- and Fatema Ma'sumeh (SA) -Imam Reza's sibling- are major attractions for Shia Muslims. 

City of Mashhad, in northeast Iran, is the destination for '50 percent' of Iran's foreign visitors, alone, as quoted by the country's  head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), Masoud Soltanifar.

Despite the unfair Western-imposed sanctions on the country's peaceful nuclear program, Iran attracted 4.5 million tourists last year, most of them from neighboring countries: 1.6 m were solely from Iraq, Mashhad being their main destination.  

Currently, around 20 to 30 million mostly domestic tourists visit the city.  

Two to four flights depart from Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait each day, heading towards this 'epicenter of Halal tourism in the region'.

Qom  is considered by Shia Muslims as the second most sacred city in Iran after Mashhad. 

Iran, with a population of 75 million, is the largest Shia country in the world.