The city’s main square is paved with marble and pedestrianised, offering a grand vista of the Hazrat-e Masumeh. The square takes on a carnivalesque quality in the evening when robed clerics hurry by while pilgrims and scholars congregate to enjoy the open space, stroll the length of the square between the shrine and the glorious blue-domed Imam Hassan Mosque, and browse among the Islamic bookshops. Catering to more worldly appetites, the souvenir shops flanking the square sell delicious local sweets.
A favourite confection of Qom is sohan, a sinfully sweet brittle made with pistachio, almond, saffron and cardamom. Buying a tin of these from one of the shops (IR100,000) and a glass of tea from the square’s tea stand is part of the local experience.
Astane Sq spills into a neighbouring pedestrianised plaza in front of the Imam Hassan Mosque. A huge multistorey underground car park under this plaza is handy for those driving to Qom.