The present watercolour is a wonderful example of Lear's working drawings that he executed on his travels which show his entire thought process as he sketched in the early evening light. In order to take back with him the maximum amount of information, he wrote colour notes and reminders about the scene on which he was working, which became a characteristic of his technique. One example of these notes, visible in the lower section of the present watercolour, reads 'from A downward, the sand is yellower', and subsequently the letter 'A' can be found written twice in the centre of the sheet.
On 8 February 1854 Lear began his return journey to Cairo from Philae, a 'real fairy island', and a week later his boat reached Luxor. Here he spent ten days exploring the surrounding area, particularly the ruined temples at Thebes, the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the temple complex at Karnak where he felt 'like a cheese mite among such giants' (V. Noakes, Edward Lear, The Life of a Wanderer, Stroud, 2004, pp. 107-108).
For two other examples of Lear's work in Egypt see lots 49 and 53.