Nor Jugha, Capital of the Armenian Seafarers, Ararat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm
The Armenian city of Nor Jugha (New Julfa) emerged out of Shah Abbas’ campaign in the early 1600s to deport Armenians from Jugha (Julfa), near the Arax River in the heart of historic Armenian lands, to his new capital of Isfahan. There they settled in an area which became known as New Julfa.
New Julfa quickly emerged as a new Armenian city. Its main avenue Nazar Khiavan, named after the city’s first Kalantar (mayor) Nazar, stretches East to West and housed Armenian shops and workshops. Ten straight and wide streets stretched along the River Zayande to the south, crossing Nazar’s Avenue and forming twenty independent districts. New Julfa was covered with beautiful gardens and the Armenians built 13 churches in the city.
By 1620 New Julfa was the center of Iranian trade and had 30,000 inhabitants. Shah Abbas handed the Armenians the monopoly on Iranian raw silk export. Armenian merchants’ agents, in addition to their commercial activities, often provided intelligence, translations and diplomatic services for the Shah.
A new type of Armenian was formed in New Julfa, who should be called the “sea-Armenian”. These Armenian merchants took to the sea and became valiant seafarers, first establishing themselves in prominent port cities in India and then in the Far East.