NEYSHABUR, Iran - Like the legendary phoenix, this Iranian city has risen from the ashes after a complete demolition by the Oghuz tribe and Mangols several centuries ago.

Neyshabur was destroyed in 1153 by the Oghuz tribe and again in 1221 by the Mongols. They killed virtually any living being in the city and turned the city into “rubble.”

The massacre by Mongols had left little hope for return of life in Neyshabur. But the city of Omer Khayyam – that also hosts the footprints of Imam Ali Raza (as) - disappointed the invaders. The city is not only back to life but it is leading an active life.  

The people in Neyshabur, however, regret that the city has not regained its lost glory despite re-emerging from the deathbed.

Neyshabur was founded in the middle of the third century. The city’s name derives from the name of the Sassanid king Shapur I or Shapur II. The Arab’s captured the city in the middle of the seventh century. It was the capital of the Tahirid state in the ninth century and of the Khurasan region of the Samanid state in the tenth century.

From the ninth to 12th centuries, Neyshabur was one of the Middle East’s most important economic centres. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the city was a residence of the Great Seljuks.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Neyshabur was rebuilt. In 1722 the city suffered an Afghan invasion. The Persian and Tadzhik poet-scientist Omar Khayyam was born and died in Neyshabur. In the Middle Ages, Neyshabur was a centre for ceramic manufacture.

Principal Mayor of Neyshabur Ali Najafi said the city was a huge attraction for tourists and he was making efforts to provide facilities to the victor. “We are building new hotels and restaurants for the tourists. Neyshabur is an attraction for all people who love religion, culture or mysticism,” he told The Nation at his office here.

He said religious tourists were especially attracted to Neyshabur due to the shrine housing the footprints Imam Ali Raza (as). “We do not restrict anybody from coming here. Everybody is welcome but mostly we receive Muslims who come here to visit the Imam Raza shrine,” he said.

Najafi said the invaders in the past ruined the beauty of the city but it comes back strongly every time. “After the Mongols atrocities, no one would have thought, we will ever be the same again. I admit, we have not regained the lost glory but we have returned to life,” he added.

Neyshabur said Iran had a special love for pilgrims from Pakistan. “We are like brothers. We are in talks with Pakistan’s Hyderabad city to give Neyshabur and Hyderabad a status of sister cities. We are doing so much at all levels to further improve ties with Pakistan,” he maintained.

Mehdi Kosari, the Mayor of First District of Neyshabur told The Nation that returning to life by his city was unbelievable. “Despite the destruction caused by the aggressors in the past, we have not accepted defeat. Life goes on,” he contended.

He said the people of Neyshabur believed in the philosophy of Omer Khayyam who wanted to ‘seize every moment.’ Kosari said Mongols would never had imagined that Neyshabur would still be a living city in the 21st century. “We have proved them wrong. You can kill people but not their courage,” he said.

Imam Raza (as)’s footprint shrine is the first attraction for the Muslims who visit this city. It is located on the outskirts of the city and frequently visited by the devotees. Then one can drive straight to the main city where a host of attractions are always waiting. There is a belief in Iran’s Khorasan province that if a family moves to Neyshabur and lives there for some time, they will have blue-eyed babies. They also say most people in Neyshabur have turquoise eye-colour. Whether myth or reality, blue-eyed or not, the most important Neyshabur’S souvenirs are turquoise gemstones.

Neyshabur Turquoise is the finest in the world.  For at least 2,000 years, Iran and Neyshabur has remained an important source of turquoise which was named by Iranians initially “pirouzeh” or victory.

Omer Khayyam, the famous Iranian poet, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer was born in Neyshabur and was buried there after death in the Khayyam Garden at the mausoleum of Imamzadeh Mahruq.

He is the author of one of the most important treatises on algebra written before modern times. He also completed Iranian Jalali Calendar, the official calendar, which is used in Iran today. His mausoleum which was completed in 1963 remains a masterpiece of Iranian architecture visited by many people every year.

Mohammad Ghaffari, known as Kamal Al Molk was a famous Iranian painter and the royal painter of King Nasereddin Shah Qajar who died in Neyshabur in 1940 and has a tomb near Omer Khayyam.

There is not much known about the life of Abu Hamid bin Abu Bakr Ibrahim better known by his pen-names Faridud Din and Attar, however most people agree that he was born in Neyshabur. His tomb too is located near Omer Khayyam’s mausoleum. He was one of the most famous mystic poets of Iran and his works were the inspiration for Jalaldu Din Rumi and many other poets.

The excavation site in the city takes you back to centuries old civilisation where people were seemingly leading a modern-day life. The whole area has been banned for any digging except by the government. The excavation areas are being expanded to uncover more history.

Professor David Shahpasandi, who teaches English in a Neyshabur collage, said the city had a huge potential for tourism. “This city is not an ordinary city. It has faced worst kind of terrorism at the hands of invaders. People should visit this city to renew their courage,” he said.

Shahpasandi said Neyshabur was far from what it used to be in the previous centuries but “I am hopeful, we will see the same Neyshabur in the years to come.”