November through May is the best time to visit the ruins of Sijilmasa. (Flies, sand fleas and daytime temperatures easily topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit make summer touring a lot less enjoyable.) Try to visit on Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays, when the adjacent town of Rissani holds its large and lively souk (market).

A new, 12-hour direct bus service links Casablanca with Rissani. From Fez (205 miles north of Sijilmasa) there are two driving options: A local bus, which stops along the route at villages that are surrounded by earthen walls and crenelated towers, will get you to Sijilmasa in about eight hours; you can also rent a car and take the P21 highway south. If you’re pressed for time, you can fly from Fez to the town of Er-Rachidia. From there you can take a taxi or bus to Rissani, a two-and-a-half-hour drive south.

Accomodations? The only recommended hotel in Rissani is the three-star Kasbah Asmaa (tel: 55–77-40–83). There’s far more choice—from campsites to modest inns and luxury hotels—in the administrative town of Erfoud, 22 miles to the north.

Is your Arabic non-existent? Your rusty French will serve you well.