This painting illustrates Muhammad 'Ali Pasha's (r. 1805-48) important project of building Egypt's first railway between Suez and Cairo. The event was probably popular as printed versions of this painting exist (see Rosebery's, London, 19 March 2013, lot 636). This railway would have been the Ottoman Empire's, Africa's and the Middle East's first railway. However the project was abandoned as the project of the Suez canal went ahead, probably under French pressure. The first Egyptian railway was built under Muhammad 'Ali's successor, the Khedive Isma'il and opened 1854 between Alexandria and Kafr al-Zayyat.