Stretching along the Baie du Lévrier in the middle of a narrow 35km-long peninsula, the fishing port of Nouâdhibou marks the end of the road in many respects. The rail line from the interior ends. The country's northern border is a few kilometres away. Shipwrecks are marooned in the waters south of the city. From the air, the divide with Morocco, mostly empty desert bordering the Atlantic, is stark.
The city itself sprawls north to south; mostly low-slung buildings, paved roads petering out into sandy pathways a few blocks from the main artery. Often bypassed by travellers making a dash to the capital or to the Adrar, its sleepiness is its selling point. North of the centre, the Baie de l'Étoile resembles a mini Banc d'Arugin and a destination for intrepid kitesurfers. Daily life – the call of the muezzin, afternoon football, joggers hugging the coastal road – feels close.