This is an example of Lear's finished watercolours, which Lear executed either as a commission or for his summer exhibitions during the 1860s using sketches made in the late 1840s and 1850s. As they were not intended to be stored in portfolios but framed and hung, they had to be both bold enough in colour and dense enough in medium to hold their own next to oil paintings. Another version, of the same size and date, is in the Houghton Library, Harvard University, see V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, London, 1985, p. 124, no. 37f. Sometimes these studio works are signed and dated with both the date of the original drawing and that of the studio watercolour.
From early in 1848, Lear was thinking about a trip to Egypt. After nine months of travelling through the eastern Mediterranean, Lear finally reached Egypt in January 1849. The visit was brief, in Cairo he met up with his friend John Cross, with whom he set out for Sinai and Palestine. They spent three nights at the monestry at Sinai, but Lear took a fever and was forced to give up the trip and convalesce at Suez.