Geographical Location and Population
Nishapur is a city in the Razavi Khorasan province in northeastern Iran, situated in a fertile plain at the foot of the Binalud Mountains, near the regional capital of Mashhad. The regions economy is largely agricultural, based on grain and cotton. It is also the second industrial city in Khorasan, and it is one of the most prosperous localities in Iran, although somewhat blighted by drug smuggling from nearby Afghanistan. The region is very prone to earthquakes, with the most recent significant ones occurring in 1986 and 1997. The latest surveys show that the Nishapur’s population is estimated at 270,972 in 2006.
Nishapur occupies an important strategic position astride the old Silk Road that linked Anatolia and the Mediterranean with China. On the Silk Road, Nishapur has often defined the flexible frontier between the Iranian plateau and Central Asia. The town derived its name from its reputed founder, the Sassanian king Shapur I, who is said to have established it in the 3rd century CE. Nearby are the turquoise mines that supplied the world with turquoise for at least two millennia. It became an important town in the Khorasan region but subsequently declined in significance until a revival in its fortunes in 9th century under the Tahirid dynasty, when the glazed ceramics of Nishapur formed an important item of trade to the west. For a time Nishapur rivaled Baghdad or Cairo: Toghrül, the first ruler of the Seljuk dynasty, made Nishapur his residence in 1037 and proclaimed himself sultan there, but it declined thereafter, as Seljuk fortunes were concentrated in the west. In the year 1000CE, it was among the 10 largest cities on earth. After the husband of Genghis Khan's daughter was killed at Nishapur in 1221, he ordered the death of all in the city (~1.7 million), and the skulls of men, women, and children were piled in pyramids by the Mongols. This invasion and earthquakes destroyed the pottery kilns. In 1979, the 15th World Scout Jamboree was scheduled to be held in Nishapur, but it was cancelled because of the uprising against the Shah of Iran led by Khomeini Ayatollah.
Intangible Cultural Heritage
Nishapur is also home to many poets and cultural celebrities. The poet and mathematician Omar Khayyám was born in Nishapur in 1048 and is buried a few miles outside the town, near the Imamzadeh Mahroq Mosque. The 12th century poet and mystic Farid al-Din Attar, another native of Nishapur, is also buried nearby. And Iran's greatest contemporary painter, Kamal-ol-molk is buried in the same place. Also Nishapur has been the hometown of famous people including:
1. Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (one of Islam's greatest muhaddiths, whose collection of hadith, Sahih Muslim, is second in authenticity only to Muhammad al-Bukhari's Sahih al-Bukhari)
2. Imam al-Hakim (another one of Islam's greatest muhaddiths and scholarly giants)
3. Prof. Mohammad Reza Shafiei-Kadkani (great contemporary Persian poet and writer and Persian literature Professor, who is famous for his literary criticism)
4. Ostad Parviz Meshkatian (famous Musician, researcher, Santur player and composer).
5. Heydar Yaghma (an illiterate worker who began telling poems and published them.)
6. Hajji Bektash Wali (Muslim mystic, humanist and philosopher)
7. Saadat Khan or Wakil-i-Mutlaq, Saadat Khan also called Burhan-ul-Mulk, was the founder of the Awadh dynasty in north India in 18th century.