Did you try to read that in one breath? Well that's how the Imam at the Albanian American Islamic Center (Berkeley, IL) recited. Fast and in one breath! Before that, here's a little about the center itself.
I've attended probably a dozen weddings at this place growing up. Back then it was a simple place with white walls and a white drop ceiling. This was the first time in a few years I have been here and not only did they completely reconstruct the mosque, but they also have made a beautiful banquet facility. I heard many good things about "Albanian" since the reconstruction and couldn't wait to see it for myself- it did live up to all the hype. The prayer hall is huge, neat, and clean. It's not completely over done with marble and granite- but tastefully trimmed with cherry wood all around. Being an Albanian center all the announcements were of course in the Albanian language which sounds a lot like Farsi. We got through Isha as usual and it was time for tarawih.
We raised our hands to commence praying and before I crossed my arms, the Imam was already done with Surah Fatiha, or at least that is what it felt like. He recited the entire Surah all in one breath. Literally. I thought maybe he did this because he would cover a substantial amount of the Quran in each rakat, but to my dismay, this was not the matter. The Imam only read one verse before going into ruku. We were going through each rakat in our prayers this fast until the end. It reminded me of junior high gym class where we would do stretches, sitting down, standing up, jumping, and sitting down again (It was basically like this except the jumping). Also kind of like how I used to pray when I was 11 years old, up down up down up down to finish it fast. During the second rakah I thought "finally a little break sitting down." To my surprise the Imam gets up and continues this for a 3rd and 4th rakat. All of the mosques I went to only did 2 rakats each at a time, but here they do 4 at a time which is different from what I am used to.
After every eight rakats, they did group dhikr. Each time was done with chanting different wording. Every member in attendance participated in this- I found myself to feel as if I was in a Sufi Dhikr circle.
After tarawih and witr was complete, I finally recognized a familiar face who I usually see at the Bolingbrook Masjid for regular prayers. Judge me later, but I always thought he was the staple "white guy" at a desi majority mosque. After meeting and introducing myself I found out his name is Flamoor and is Albanian himself. He lives in Bolingbrook, but told me he attends "Albanian" for tarawih since many people do not come here. In this huge prayer hall only three rows were filled which was also another difference from the jam-packed mosques the previous ten nights.
I wanted to meet the Imam and ask him about the differences in tarawih and to see if most Eastern European Muslims follow this way. After finishing salah, I went to meet the Imam as did everyone else, but he seemed to be in a huge rush and was already looking at the next person to meet as we shook hands. Maybe the whole Speedy Gonzales factor doesn't stop at leading tarawih...