Lear first journeyed to Egypt in January 1849 but was only able to find time to visit Cairo and the Pyramids. At the end of 1853, however, he arrived in Cairo and immediately accepted an offer to travel up the Nile by boat. On reaching Philae the group set up camp and remained on the island for ten days which Lear spent sketching and recording the temples and the surrounding area. He wrote to his sister Ann, 'It is impossible to describe the place to you, any further than saying it is more like a real fairy island than anything else I can compare it to. It is very small, & was formerly all covered with temples, of which the ruins of 5 or 6 now only remain. The great T. of Isis, on the terrace of which I now am writing, is so extremely wonderful that no words can give the least idea of it'. Lear was much taken by the scenery and the extraordinary light and colours, and completed at least twenty oil paintings of Philae.