Armenian Diplomats and the European Journey of Khvāja Safar

Exploring the Unexpected: Shah ʿAbbās I’s Attitude Towards Spain

In the early seventeenth century, Safavid–Spanish relations underwent a significant transformation. Shah ʿAbbās I, the illustrious ruler of Persia, proposed a trade agreement aimed at rerouting the silk market away from Ottoman territory. This strategic move necessitated the appointment of a Spanish ambassador to Iran, unaffiliated with any religious order—a departure from the norm.

Khvāja Safar: The Armenian Emissary

Among the key figures involved in this diplomatic endeavor was Khvāja Safar, an Armenian merchant and diplomat. Safar’s selection for this mission was influenced by his connections within the network of Armenian traders. Additionally, his father had ties to the Venetian consul Sagredo, who knew Safar through his delegate in Iran.

The Unexpected Shift

Khvāja Safar embarked on a remarkable journey through Europe, representing Shah ʿAbbās as both a commercial agent and an emissary. His mission was multifaceted: facilitating trade, fostering alliances, and navigating the intricate web of European politics. Yet, it was the unexpected change in Shah ʿAbbās’ attitude towards Spain that remains intriguing.

Why the Shift?

While recent studies have explored the circumstances of this embassy, Safar’s role has often been overshadowed by the Spanish ambassador, Don García de Silva y Figueroa. However, Safar’s journey sheds light on the complexities of Safavid diplomacy and the pivotal role played by Armenian envoys.

Legacy and Impact

Khvāja Safar’s European odyssey exemplifies the interconnectedness of cultures, trade, and diplomacy during the Safavid period. His efforts contributed not only to Persia’s silk trade but also to the broader understanding of cross-cultural interactions.

In summary, the appointment of Armenian diplomats like Khvāja Safar underscores the rich tapestry of historical connections between Persia and Europe. Their stories, often hidden in the annals of time, continue to shape our understanding of diplomacy and cultural exchange.

Keywords: Khvāja Safar, Armenians, Spanish monarchy, Safavid dynasty, silk trade

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Prof. Carlos Alonso and D. Gershon Lewental for their invaluable contributions to tracing Safar’s European journey.


  1. Cutillas Ferrer, José. “Armenians, Diplomats, and Commercial Agents of Shah ʿAbbās: The European Journey of Khvāja Safar (c. 1609–14).” Journal of Persianate Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1–282

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