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Although royal marriages in ancient Egypt were often based on power, alliances or conveniences, in some cases they came from a deep and meaningful love. Nefertari was an Egyptian queen and the first of the Great Royal Wives (or principal wives) of Ramesses II, also known as Ramses the Great. She is known to have been highly educated and able to both read and write hieroglyphs, rare skills for her time, which she used in diplomatic work, corresponding with other prominent royals of the time. Ramesses was incredibly devoted to Nefertari and was obsessed with her beauty. She is known to have even accompanied Ramses on military campaigns, an exercise that was rare during the time. The Great king also had monuments built in her honor. In fact, Ramesses built a temple for her at Abu Simbel, one of the largest and most beautiful structures in Egypt.
Although pharaohs always depicted themselves as larger than the statues of their queens, Ramses did not: he made two colossal statues of the queen and four of Ramses II - all carved on the front of the temple in the same size. By the time of his death, aged about 90 years, Ramses had made Egypt rich from all the supplies and riches he had collected from other empires. He had outlived many of his wives and children and left great memorials all over Egypt. Above all, Nefertari’s exquisite tomb is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt’ and is considered one of the jewels of Egyptian funerary monuments. It is one of the most magnificently decorated tombs ever to be discovered in Egypt. On one of her tomb walls, Ramses had inscribed the words, “My love is unique – no one can rival her, for she is the most beautiful woman alive. Just by passing, she has stolen away my heart.”