© 2018 The Author(s). Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) represents an important respiratory disease accompanied by lethal outcome in one-third of human patients. Recent data indicate that dromedaries represent an important source of infection, although information regarding viral cell tropism and pathogenesis is sparse. In the current study, tissues of eight dromedaries receiving inoculation of MERS-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) after recombinant Modified-Vaccinia-Virus-Ankara (MVA-S)-vaccination (n = 4), MVA-vaccination (mock vaccination, n = 2) and PBS application (mock vaccination, n = 2), respectively, were investigated. Tissues were analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, and scanning electron microscopy. MERS-CoV infection in mock-vaccinated dromedaries revealed high numbers of MERS-CoV-nucleocapsid positive cells, T cells, and macrophages within nasal turbinates and trachea at day four post infection. Double immunolabeling demonstrated cytokeratin (CK) 18 expressing epithelial cells to be the prevailing target cell of MERS-CoV, while CK5/6 and CK14 expressing cells did not co-localize with virus. In addition, virus was occasionally detected in macrophages. The acute disease was further accompanied by ciliary loss along with a lack of dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), known to mediate virus entry. DPP4 was mainly expressed by human lymphocytes and dromedary monocytes, but overall the expression level was lower in dromedaries. The present study underlines significant species-specific manifestations of MERS and highlights ciliary loss as an important finding in dromedaries. The obtained results promote a better understanding of coronavirus infections, which pose major health challenges.