This portrait, by Borgo Casatti, depicts Burton on his way to the sacred city of Mecca, in the guise of "Mirza Abdullah of Bushire, a vendor or fine linen, calicoes and muslins". Disguised as an Arab, Burton was amongst the first Westerners to have access to Mecca and El Medina. Burton's subsequent book Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Mecca (1855) made his name and established his reputation as a daring adventurer, linguist, and anthropologist. After the publication of this book, Burton next journeyed to the forbidden city of Harar.
This painting complements photographs in the Burton collection of Burton wearing his Arab 'jubbah'. In later life, he still wore his slippers and fez, purchased on his travels, also part of the Burton Collection at Orleans House Gallery.