Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs
The Timeless Allure of Ancient Egypt
Thousands of years ago, in a desert land named Egypt, people began to build wonders unlike anything that came before and unlike anything that would come after. Overseeing this incredible civilization were dynasties of pharaohs whose names have remained legendary throughout the millennia. But among these, one stands above all others: Ramses II (also known as Ramses the Great). Now, you can experience the story of this king in an incredible touring exhibition.
Called Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs, this one-of-a-kind international show presents an opportunity to see the splendor of Egypt’s ancient rulers up close and personal. But along with artifacts that have stood the test of time, new technology is being used to create even more immersive elements — including a virtual reality component that brings you right into ancient Egypt.
Guided tour of the Exhibit Ramses II and Gold of the Pharaohs
We visited the exhibition in Paris recently with an Official guide conférencier.
We are always excited to dive into this fascinating time and place with a knowledgeable and fun guide provided by the event organization.
Working in this city as guides, we are lucky to be surrounded by many artifacts from this civilization, with the Louvre boasting some of the best collections of ancient Egyptian works in the world. That’s why no matter when you visit Paris, we can offer you unforgettable Egyptian-themed tours of the Louvre.
Today, let’s look at the fantastic touring exhibition and take a deep dive into the world that Ramses the Great lived in and the history of a civilization he helped shape.
Ramses II (or, Ramses the Great)
Ramses II — known as Ramses the Great — lived somewhere between 1300 BCE to 1210 BCE. His long life and rule helped ensure his impact. And three millennia later we can now fully appreciate just how important this man was in the history of the world.
Today’s archaeologists recognize Ramses II as perhaps the most powerful and important pharaoh of the New Kingdom, which is seen as the height of Egyptian power.
A major part of his reputation, both during his time and today, is his penchant for great projects. Make no mistake, Ramses II was a builder. Among his many achievements include:
● New capital city of Pi-Ramses
● Temple of Abu Simbel (more on that below)
● Tomb of Nefertari (more on that below)
● complex at Abydos
● hall at Karnak
Beyond these massive civilization-defining achievements, Ramses II commissioned hundreds more construction projects — including city development, religious architecture, tombs, and state monuments.
As king, his power extended deep into the Levant in the east (reclaiming the full extent of Egyptian control in the region) and into Nubia in the south. He accomplished this early on in his reign through military domination of his neighbors.
While he found great success in the battlefield, he is probably best known for the draw his armies experienced against the Hittite Empire at the Battle of Kadesh. Why is this battle so well known? It was both mind-boggling in its size and notable for how much of it was recorded. The Battle of Kadesh is far and away the earliest pitched battle in which we know intimate details of the formations used and tactics deployed. And just to get a sense of scale, it is estimated the battle featured more than 5000 chariots!
Ramses II experienced a very long reign — dying around the age of 90. This allowed him to truly make a mark on the history of his kingdom with his reign lasting a staggering 67 years. And knowing how things can change after you pass, Ramses II ensured his memory could not be erased. At the time, the acts of kings were chiseled into the walls of temples. If later leaders wanted to destroy the memory of a previous king, they would have these inscriptions destroyed. That’s why Ramses II had his cut deeply into the rock face. This would make it much more difficult to erase his history!
The figure of Ramses II will no doubt remind Parisian visitors of Napoleon. The two both understood the critical role that arts and culture had in building your power. They each commissioned great works to secure their stature in society, and they both established their greatness on the backs of expansive military campaigns. And of course, both sought unquestioned authority.
Interesting, then, that Napoleon had such a fascination with ancient Egypt. He marveled at the wonders he found there during his campaign, and he made sure to bring an army of scientists with him to catalog and confiscate all the artifacts they could find. It is as if he felt a connection to the pharaohs of the past.
Is Ramses II the pharaoh of Moses?
Ramses II is such a fascinating figure that there are many rumors and lingering questions people have about this all-important pharaoh. Among the most common is this: Is Ramses II the pharaoh of Moses? The guide said : "Propably, yes!"
Is Ramses II the Pharaoh of the Jews exodus?
It is popularly believed that Ramses II was the pharaoh represented in the Book of Exodus — a Biblical account of the Jews escaping their enslavement in Egypt. This cannot be verified, but he is seen as the top contender. The second-most popular is his father Seti I.
This connection is fairly coincidental, as the exhibit opened on the first day of the Passover festival. That is the day that Jews celebrate their Exodus from Egypt as described in the Tanakh.
The Exhibit of Ramses and the Gold of the Pharaohs
Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs is running in Paris at the Grande Halle de la Villette - best to go using the Metro Line 5 - Porte de Pantin - starting April 7, 2023 and running all the way to September 6. It is a massive undertaking, the product of a partnership between the Supreme Council of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Cityneon, and World Heritage Exhibitions.
Ramses II and His Sarcophagus
The show is built entirely around the extraordinary reign of Ramses II. His rule marks a defining period for Egyptian civilization, and his accomplishments are still known today. Though he is the star of the show, Ramses II’s mummy will not be in attendance. While his stunning coffin can be seen by visitors, the Egyptian government does not actually allow mummies to leave the country — a way to preserve and respect these remains that, for far too long, were plundered by Europeans.
There was a 1976 exhibition in Paris where the remains of Ramses II made an appearance, but that will likely be the last time he ever visits the City of Lights.
What is on display, however, is the sarcophagus of Ramses II. This is a painted and carved work of extraordinary art. It is crafted with intricate detail into cedar. The pharaoh is depicted with his arms crossed over his body, holding a whip and scepter — signs of his command.
Along the side, the story of the mummy’s post-burial vagaries are noted. Initially, Ramses the Great was buried in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. But grave robbers forced officials to move his body, something they had to do two more times, finally staying put in the Royal Cache in the Theban necropolis. He rested in this place for about 3000 years until he was discovered yet again. This time, he is in the hands of the Egyptian government, which has committed itself to the protection of its remarkably rich cultural past.
The sarcophagus of Ramses the Great can be seen in the Paris version of this globe-trotting exhibition, but this central artifact will not be visible at any of the other cities. That makes the Paris version incredibly special for any visitors who want to see this 3000 year old work of art.
Goldsmithing under Ramses II
The works of gold jewelry on display at the exhibit are astounding. They are even more so when you consider they were made 32 centuries ago!
Many of the works on display are exquisite, with highly detailed decoration including snakes and abstract designs, some inlaid with precious stones.
These pieces of jewelry are pulled from multiple sources, including items for his many wives and even decorations to honor his soldiers — the king had one of the largest armies in the history of ancient Egypt.
Going beyond Ramses II
Ramses II provides the central narrative that the entire exhibition in the Grande Halle de La Villette builds itself around. But the show embraces a much wider period. This helps us see the deeper impact the pharaoh made, and it also gives us a chance to simply take in more of ancient Egypt.
The ancient city of Tanis provides a major source of artifacts for the exhibition, and that should come as no surprise: the wealth of archeological discoveries it has provided us is astounding.
Its history as an excavation site is long. The first time scientists took note of it was during Napoleon’s first expedition to Egypt. Pierre Jacotin made a map of the site, and it wouldn’t be until 1825 that Jean-Jacques Rifaud excavated two granite sphinxes (which you can still visit today at the Louvre).
Other archaeologists continued this work through the 19th century, but it wouldn’t be until 1939 that Tanis really revealed her greatest secrets. It’s in that year that Pierre Montet discovered the royal necropolis built about 3000 years ago.
The city itself doesn’t appear in any records until the reign of Ramses II, but only as a field. It would later be used as a capital city for pharaohs of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties.
Modern archaeologists came to refer to Tanis as the “Thebes of the North” — as it reused monuments from the city. It also is the place where much of the city of Pi-Ramses was relocated!
In the exhibition, you can see a wide range of funerary treasures. These include:
● ornate cups
● statuettes (gold, silver, turquoise, lapis lazuli, etc.)
These are the items that would accompany the heirs of Ramses the Great in their trip to the afterlife.
The final leg of the exhibition takes you into a virtual reality experience. While VR may not be for everybody, this is well worth a try.
This special installation lets you travel to ancient Egypt, and it all begins at Abu Simbel.
The genius of Ramses II
The temple of Abu Simbel is one of the most iconic ancient Egyptian wonders. The exterior is daunting — made up of four great pharaohs carved into the cliff face. Each monarch is rendered at 20 meters (or 66 feet) tall. Who are they? They are all representations of Ramses II.
He had this temple built in the land of Nubia where his kingdom drew gold and many other key resources. Abu Simbel was created to impress upon the people of this faraway land the god-like power of Ramses the Great. This propaganda in stone took 20 years to complete, and it was known during its active years at the Temple of Ramses, beloved by Amun.
When you pass by these massive statues and enter into the cliff face to see the inside, you see two temples. The larger one is dedicated to Amun, Ptah, and Ra-Horakhty. The smaller one is dedicated to Hathor, a goddess made to look like Ramses II’s favorite wife Nefertari.
After seeing these amazing sights, you get to go into the tomb of Nefertari and witness the details of this extraordinary space in detail.
Visit Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs
If you want to take in this beautiful and highly informative experience, buy your tickets on the official website.
There is a special connection between the city of Paris and ancient Egypt. For that reason, even when this show is no longer here, you can always schedule an Egyptian tour of the Louvre.