We’ve already introduced our readers to Ras Malekot, a devout Rasta, poet, writer, craft maker and recording artist. He took us deep into the Blue Mountains to visit his home and talk about the Rastafari movement. Here, he gives us a tour of his variety shop at the foot of the mountains in Kingston, just down the road from our Strawberry Hill hotel. Mount Debre Zeit Records and Variety Store—which translates to “Mount of Olives” in Amharic (the language of Ethiopia)—has been open for a decade. It’s become a mainstay in the community, with no set hours. Malekot often sleeps in the shop, so he opens early and closes late, basically opening the door whenever he’s awake! For tourists, that means you can stop by any time you’d like and pick up some of the most authentic souvenirs on the island. (You will not find this stuff at the airport.)
Shop owner Ras Malekot is always on hand to explain the health benefits of each tonic.
Rastas frequent the shop to purchase root tonics (wellness drinks) and root wines (naturally fermented drinks that contain less than 5% alcohol). Passersby stop in to buy souvenirs like Jamaican and Rastafari flags and knitted hats, or to rummage through his collection of reggae cassette tapes.
Here’s a closer look at Mount Debre Zeit Records and Variety Store, located at 84 Gordon Town Road.
The store’s sign is painted in traditional Rasta colors—red, green and gold.
Malekot explains his process for making root tonics and wines, which can take up to six weeks to brew. The store carries more than 30 different kinds, some of which are sold in the United States. “If you’re a person who likes to keep your immune system balanced,” Malekot says, “you should drink a root tonic every day. Maybe three!”
Rastafari flags and portraits of Haile Selassie I hang in the shop.