The Guardian newspaper has a fascinating read about Iraqi Shia pilgrims visiting Mashhad, in Iran: Prayer, food, sex and water parks in Iran’s holy city of Mashhad.
During my childhood in Iran, and a couple of subsequent visits, I’ve been to several of the key cities, like Isfahan and Shiraz. But I’ve never been to Mashhad, and in fact all I knew of it was its reputation as a “holy city,” due to its many theological schools, as well as housing the tomb of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. But the juxtaposition of that image with the one painted by this article, of touristy theme parks and sex workers, is quite interesting.
“Mehdi also comments on Iraqi men who come to Mashhad looking to patronize the city’s sizeable population of sex workers, many of which conduct business through a Shia system of ‘temporary marriage’ known in Iran as sigheh.”