Ali Khan and Nino Kipiani live in the cosmopolitan, oil-rich capital of Azerbaijan which, at the beginning of the twentieth century, is a melting-pot of different cultures.
Ali is a Muslim, with his ancestors' passion for the desert, and Nino is a Christian Georgian girl with sophisticated European ways.
Despite their differences, the two have loved each other since childhood and Ali is determined that he will marry Nino as soon as she leaves school.
But there is not only the obstacle of their different religions and parental consent to overcome.
The First World War breaks out. As the Russians withdraw, the Turks advance, and Ali and Nino find themselves swept up in Azerbaijan's fight for independence.