Khosh amadee!” Omaid Sharifi, co-founder of ArtLords, an art collective, says as he invites us into his house in a manner that reflects true Afghan hospitality—with grace, a smile and open arms.

The phrase is in the local language of Dari. Used to mean “welcome,” it literally translates to “come with happiness” – which is a bit ironic because in the newly released World Happiness Report, Afghanistan is ranked as the third least happy country in the world. Only the Central African Republic and South Sudan are deemed unhappier.

But on this particular night, it’s hard to think of Afghanistan as an unhappy place. Our host welcomes us to his beautifully decorated house with its large garden. The house is older than the first wars that plagued the country 40 years ago and that often define the nature and personality of the country.

Sharifi is hosting one of his famous soirees. His guests include well-known personalities like news anchors and politicians as well as social workers, corporate workers and artists, among many others.

The invitees greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek as they take seats on the toushaks — Afghan cushions for floor seating — placed around the very large living room. In Afghan architecture, living rooms are specifically designed to be big enough for crowded gatherings.

“In the West, people often go barhopping after a long day’s or week’s work to unwind, de-stress and spend quality times with friends, but in Afghanistan where we don’t have too many social public spaces, we go ‘house-hopping,’ ” says Sharifi, as he walks around the large room, socializing and attending to the needs of the constant flow of people. There’s cheerful chatter and laughter – and a diverse playlist of Afghan music, Western pop and Bollywood songs.

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