At the edge of the vast Mauritanian desert lies the small coastal town of Nouadhibou. There, seventeen year-old Abdallah is visiting his mother before emigrating to Europe. The melancholic young man finds himself a stranger in his own country; unable to speak the local language he shies away from village customs and festivities and is less interested in traditional dress than the latest European fashions. Yet Abdallah becomes involved in the lives of the inhabitants of this strange and unfamiliar world: the sorrowful but sensual young woman Nana; the aged handyman Maata, whose attempts at installing electricity lead to frustration; and the wide-eyed and optimistic young orphan boy Khatra. Abderrahmane Sissako's poetic and beautifully photographed film is a delicately observed and poignant examination of the conflict between progress and tradition.