Egypt's Golden Empire
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Nefertari as depicted in her tomb
Little is known of Nefertari, the first chief queen of Ramesses the Great, but her stunning tomb is a testament to the high regard in which her husband held her.

Like his predecessors, Ramesses II had an entire harem, but at any one time, just one wife was given the rank of chief queen. His very long reign saw one consort die after another and Ramesses would ultimately take eight principal wives.

The first and most beloved of these was Queen Nefertari. Thought to be an Egyptian noblewoman, Ramesses married Nefertari in 1312 BC and she soon gave him his first son, Amenhirwenemef - the first of 11 children.

Crazy in love

Although Ramesses was primarily in love with himself, he was also devoted to Nefertari and wrote at length of his love and her beauty. He demonstrated this by building her a magnificent tomb, the finest in the Valley of the Queens.

Although the tomb was later looted of its treasures, its decoration was exquisite. The walls were covered with intricate paintings using a vast array of colors. It also featured 'relief carving', a tricky process where the design is carved to stick out from the surface of the wall.

Nefertari's tomb
Going the extra mile

When Nefertari died, she was sealed into her tomb as was customary. Ramesses then ordered two enormous temples to be built, carved out of the cliffs of Abu Simbel in Nubia, south of Thebes.

The larger of the two temples was built for Ramesses himself; the smaller temple was built for Nefertari. The fašade of the temple featured two enormous carvings of Nefertari. However, just to remind his people who was boss, these carvings were outnumbered by four images of Ramesses himself, even bigger than those of his wife. There was also an inscription stating that Ramesses II paid for the temple "for the Chief Queen Nefertari... for whom the sun shines."

Who's the man?

The temples had another purpose: they were a gigantic piece of propaganda. Located at the most southern point of the Egyptian empire, they were intended to demonstrate the pharaoh's power to locals and visitors alike.

Visible for miles, the temples and colossal statues of Ramesses and Nefertari would have filled travelers with wonder and awe - just the reaction Ramesses wanted and a fitting tribute to his beloved wife, Nefertari.

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Egypt's Golden Empire