Gérôme consistently returned to the subject of the caravan throughout his long career and his enthusiasm for the desert, combined with his adventurous spirit, account for the dominant theme of Orientalism in his oeuvre.
In 1868 Gérôme set out on a great safari for the first four months of the year along with the painters Paul Lenoir and Léon Bonnat, the physician Dr. Journault and the journalist Frédéric Masson. In 1901 Masson wrote of the artist the following passage, which was published in the French newspaper le Figaro illustré:
'Gérôme seems born for these distant voyages to which one must bring vigour of body and decision of mind. Always up, always alert and indefatigable, he commands the caravan with an authority which no one contests. The first to rise in the morning, he superintends the departure; then, erect in his saddle, he keeps going through the long hours, smoking, hunting, tracing with a rapid stroke in his sketchbook a movement or a silhouette. Scarcely arrived at a camp, behold him commencing a study - neither rain nor wind having the power to move him away from his camping stool.' (Frédéric Masson, le Figaro illustré, July 1901).
During his trips to the Middle East, Gérôme filled his notebooks with images of his journey. These sketches served as inspiration to the artist, helping him to capture, as in the present work, the immediacy and accuracy of detail as though recorded on the spot.